Shelter Scotland has launched a campaign targeting the criminal practice of illegal eviction by private landlords.
Illegal Eviction – Know Your Rights is supported by Police Scotland and Crimestoppers and will visit several towns and cities across the country. The campaign is also backed by the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL).
The campaign aims to raise awareness among landlords and tenants that illegal eviction is not a civil offence – as many understand it to be – but a criminal offence and a matter for the police.
The crime is punishable with a heavy fine or even a prison sentence.
Across Scotland each year it is estimated there are hundreds of illegal evictions carried out by private landlords who are either unaware of the law or knowingly break it in the belief they will get away with it. Also, tenants are often not aware of the law or scared to make a complaint. Shelter Scotland regularly receives calls from tenants who say they are facing illegal eviction.
Illegal evictions happen in a number of ways – evicting without following the correct legal processes, changing the locks when the tenant is out or by threatening violence or intimidation. Harassment of tenants to force them to leave is also a criminal offence as is cutting off essential services such as gas, electricity and water.
Launching the campaign, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “While most landlords in Glasgow behave professionally and treat their tenants with respect, there are some who still think they are above the law and evict people illegally to suit their own purposes. This criminal practice tarnishes the reputation of the private rented sector and has to be stamped out.
“Our campaign aims to raise awareness of the issue and clarify for tenants and landlords that illegal eviction is in fact a criminal offence and not a civil offence. This should help protect tenants and hopefully see more bad landlords brought to book for their criminal actions.
“We thank Police Scotland, Crimestoppers and the Scottish Association of Landlords for their support.”
Chief Inspector Kenny Thomson of Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland fully supports the awareness raising work being carried out by Shelter Scotland highlighting illegal evictions and the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. Working in partnership with Shelter Scotland we are keeping people safe, allowing legitimate businesses to thrive and deterring criminals from infiltrating business areas, in this case, the Private Rented Sector.”
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, said: “We welcome Shelter Scotland’s campaign to raise awareness of illegal eviction. We work with and support good landlords and it is a source of great concern that a small number of criminal landlords bring down the reputation of the whole industry through practices such as illegal eviction.”