‘I went to the supermarket one weekend and when I got back, I found my landlady was changing the locks of my door. I asked her what was going on and she said she didn’t want me to stay in the house, so she was changing the locks.
‘I called the police, but initially they didn’t offer any help. I looked on Google and found that changing locks like this is illegal, so then the police said they would come, but they didn’t do anything. It was hard, because you’re out in the street and no one is there to help you.
‘I searched online for where I could get help for illegal eviction, and that’s how I found South West London Law Centres. Although I’d just started working, I also received Universal Credit, so thankfully I qualified for legal aid. Otherwise I’d never have been able to afford a lawyer.
‘It was very nice at the Law Centre: it felt like they wanted to help. It made all the difference because otherwise I wouldn’t have had any support – I would have been out on the street.
‘Because I had a voice recording of my conversation with my landlady, we could prove that she was aware that what she was doing – changing the locks without warning – was illegal. In a matter of three or four days, I was back in my flat.
‘It turns out my landlady didn’t have a licence for renting the property as a House in Multiple Occupation either, which was also illegal. Once I had access back to my room and my things, I gave a month’s notice and moved out. I’m living a few streets away, and I’m working, and everything is super good.
‘I cannot express enough how important it was to have help from the Law Centre. They were the only people who helped me. Thank you for everything you’ve done. It would have been impossible for me to defend myself, without your help.’
Gaizka was renting a room in a shared house when he arrived home to find his landlady and a locksmith changing the locks on the front door. He could no longer access the front door to his flat because his key wouldn’t work.
Gaizka called the police but they refused to help him regain entry, saying it was a civil matter. The landlady allowed Gaizka to pick up just a few belongings, and Gaizka was forced to sofa-surf with friends, before paying for a hostel.
When Gaizka contacted the Law Centre, one of our housing solicitors wrote to his landlady warning her that she had committed a criminal offence and that, unless she let Gaizka back in and gave him back his belongings, we would seek an injunction and damages. The next day, the landlady gave Gaizka the right keys and allowed him back into his room.