Lena's story: fighting illegal eviction The bruises from where they’d grabbed Lena and pulled her out of her room were beginning to fade. Lena was, like so many, impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. She had been working full time, albeit for a minimum wage, and was on a zero hour contract. When lockdown began she had been sent home but didn’t qualify for any furlough payments and because she was technically still employed, she only received a small amount of housing benefit. But none of that should have mattered: Lena was forcibly removed from her home against her will, and against the law. Her landlord acted illegally when they entered her room, physically removed Lena from the property then changed the locks. Illegal evictions happen far too often. Harassment by landlords like that Lena experienced is thankfully more rare, but it does happen. Lena began sofa surfing, relying on the hospitality of friends, paying what she could towards their bills but staying with them was made even more difficult by lockdown. A friend told her to contact us at Wycombe Homeless Connection. We pointed her towards the council, helping her talk to a housing officer about her options, but for various reasons, Lena didn’t qualify for priority support and she continued to sleep on sofas. We encouraged her to apply for a place at a local supported-living facility although neither of us were sure that would work as again, she wouldn’t likely be deemed as in priority need as she was essentially employed and didn’t really need the personal support provided at the facility which costs extra. This turned out to be the case; she didn’t get a room. Next we helped her to look for a private tenancy that she could afford on her income; a very tricky job in our part of the UK. Lena did find a place, but couldn’t stretch to cover the rent-in-advance and the deposit which are required by many landlords. So we helped with both payments. Lena’s also working with a legal aid expert who is helping her claim compensation from her ex-landlord. Many people, like Lena, are not aware of their rights as tenants. Here are some important things you need to know if you are a tenant and are at risk of losing your home. Always put your safety first. You have rights. If you rent your home (and don't live with your landlord) you cannot be evicted until a court says so. If you have to leave your home to keep safe, do so, but read on for more information. Illegal evictions and harassment from your landlord are crimes. If you are being illegally evicted or harassed call the police. Don't leave your home just because you've been told to. Doing so when you don't have to may affect your rights to help getting somewhere else. Try to keep hold of all the paperwork related to your tenancy and deposit. Homelessness doesn't just mean living on the streets. If you don't have a home of your own - perhaps temporarily staying with friends and relatives - you are viewed as being homeless or vulnerably housed which means you can get help from us. We may be able to arrange for other organisations to help you too. If you have 'no recourse to public funds' you still have rights and there may be help available for you and all of our services are available to you. You are not alone. We will walk through this with you. Many people who come to us for help end up being able to stay in their homes. Click here to contact us today. Click here to find out more about our homelessness prevention services.