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13 October 2014, 06:00 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
A new campaign targeting the criminal practice of illegal eviction by private landlords in Scotland has been launched.
"Illegal Eviction - Know Your Rights" is led by housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland and is supported by Police Scotland, Crimestoppers and the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL).
The campaign, which will visit several towns and cities across the country, aims to raise awareness among landlords and tenants that illegal eviction is not a criminal offence punishable with a heavy fine or even a prison sentence.
Shelter claims there are hundreds of illegal evictions carried out every year by private landlords who are either unaware of the law or knowingly break it in the belief they will get away with it. It also believes tenants themselves may be too scared to make a complaint.
The charity says it regularly gets calls from people who've found their locks have been changed, or who have been threatened with violence or intimidation. It's warning landlords such harassment of tenants is 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 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.
Chief Inspector Kenny Thomson of Police Scotland, says: "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."
Angela Parker, National Manager for Crimestoppers in Scotland, says: "All private tenants are protected by the law and it is unacceptable that there are some cases where landlords are using illegal measures to remove people from their homes.
"We would urge anyone with information about this to contact us anonymously, safe in the knowledge that their identity will not be revealed. Our anonymous telephone line and online form is accessible 24 hours a day."