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How secure am I in my own home?

The ending of a relationship can be a very difficult and stressful time. It may often lead to much upheaval, upset and the need to find a new home. The general principle is that no one can be evicted from their own home without a Court Order following a proper Court process and the giving of a reasonable period of time or notice to achieve a change.

In many circumstances, changes can be achieved through negotiation, maybe some financial assistance and a degree of understanding that always prioritises the needs of children.  Anyone attempting forcibly to evict another from an established family home would undoubtedly be acting unlawfully and would probably be committing a criminal offence.  No one should be bullied into leaving their home and there is good legal protection against unlawful eviction and harassment.

If problems arise on the breakdown of a relationship, it may be necessary to seek legal advice and possibly legal protection and the Courts will always tend to treat the needs of any children in such a situation as an absolute priority.

As a general rule, on the breakdown of a relationship, one party cannot legally force the other to leave an established home and must instead go through a proper legal process which should involve the giving of reasonable notice or time to find other accommodation, followed if necessary by a Court process and the obtaining of a Court Order which is then enforceable by the Court or possibly by Bailiffs acting on behalf of the Court and supported by Police.

No one should be expected to tolerate domestic violence abuse or harassment and the Courts will always provide strong protection against such behaviour especially if that behaviour is designed to force one party to a relationship to leave an established family home. Indeed the perpetrator of such violence can expect him or herself to be evicted by the Court from that property and from that situation as a matter of some urgency.

The law does not encourage anyone to take direct action to force another to leave an established home and the proper remedy to any such dispute is to use the Court process which is intended to ensure fairness together with a reasonable period of time to find alternative accommodation if that is necessary and just.

Disputes arising in this area can often be resolved by negotiation, that can sometimes be helped by a Mediation process involving an independent Mediator, but ultimately an unresolved problem must be resolved by the Court itself and that is the case despite the established rights of ownership of a property.  It is sometimes thought that the owner of a property can evict his or her non owning partner from the property, perhaps following a row, argument or disagreement but that would not be lawful and an unlawful eviction could lead to a substantial award of compensation and/or damages by the Court against the guilty party.

Sometimes it is thought that Police can be invited by the owner of a property to evict someone else living in that property, for example boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or ex partner.  That is not the case.  Police do not have special powers in this area and cannot therefore seek to order one party to leave a property.  To do so would be unlawful and would render the Police authority liable to a civil action for damages and such actions would probably give rise to disciplinary proceedings against any Police Officer purporting to exercise a power in this area that does not exist.

The Police have a role which is to maintain the peace, to prevent the commission of crime and to investigate a crime when it has occurred.  The Police have power to arrest someone suspected of a serious criminal offence to enable a proper investigation on that offence.  The Police have wide powers to place a suspect on bail which will have conditions which may keep one person temporarily away from a property in which he or she may have lived but only if that is necessary to maintain the peace and to ensure that no crime is committed.  For those acting peaceably and lawfully in their own home, Police Officers who become involved in such a situation cannot require one party to leave their home and any attempt to do so should be reported to a senior Police Officer and then referred to the local Commissioner for Police and/or the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Even a mere lodger is entitled to a reasonable period to find other accommodation if the owner of that accommodation wants that person to leave for whatever reason.  If you don’t pay your rent, your Landlord cannot evict you without a Court Order obtained after due process with enforcement of the Order not by the Landlord but by the Court Bailiff.  The same applies if you are unable to pay your mortgage, you can only be evicted from your home following a Court Order to that effect.

Many problems can be complex and difficult to resolve and may require expert legal advice.  Disputes between husband and wife cannot be arbitrarily resolved by one party but must be resolved as part of a formal divorce process overseen by the Court.  Those who live together but are not married cannot be unlawfully evicted and may well have good legal rights arising from their own actions or promises given as to the right to occupy a property, rights arising for example as a result of money payments, financial contributions or rights arising from being the parent of a dependant child. 

Generally the law will protect any legitimate and established right of occupation of a property and whilst you home may not in fact be a castle, you almost certainly have good and established protection to remain in the property unless and until a Court has decided otherwise.  No one, not even the Police have a right to turn you out of your home unless that is as a legitimate action to enforce an existing Court Order to that effect.

David Houghton

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