If any person other than a court bailiff forces an occupier to leave their home, they are committing a criminal offence, even if the occupier has failed to pay the rent or has breached their tenancy/licence agreement.
This may be different where the landlord lives in the same building as the tenant or no rent is payable (money or in kind). In this case the landlord commits an offence if they remove an occupier without having given reasonable notice, if they use more than reasonable force, or if they fail to give the occupier their belongings back.
Types of illegal eviction
Illegal eviction usually happens when a landlord or any person acting on his/her behalf forces or attempts to force a tenant to leave their home without following the correct procedure. A landlord has probably broken the law if he/she has:
- Told you to get out of your home without proper notice
- Physically or verbally threatened you
- Locked you out of your home
- Cut off your gas or electricity
- Stopped you getting into part of your home
The law makes it a criminal offence for them to evict you without obtaining a court order, unless you are covered by one of the exceptions listed above..
Magistrates can impose a £5,000 fine and imprison a landlord for 6 months. Crown Courts can impose more severe penalties.
A legal remedy to stop illegal eviction or harassment is for the tenant to apply to the County Court to get a Court order. This will require the landlord to stop harassing the tenant and/or to give back their home if they have been unlawfully evicted. This can be an effective form of action because if the landlord breaches the order they can be sent to prison. The tenant can also seek compensation.
Tenants wishing to discuss legal options may speak for free to DHA on 01332 287 850 or the Civil Legal Advice Helpline on 0845 345 4345, or find a solicitor.
Role of the Police
The Police are responsible for dealing with crime in progress. Staffordshire Police should be called at the time an occupier is being unlawfully removed or excluded from their home or being threatened with violence. The Police will seek to prevent a crime being committed and will collect evidence to support prosecution.
Role of the Council
The Environmental Health Team investigates allegations of illegal eviction and harassment - 01283 508847
The Housing Options Team advises occupiers about their rights and assists homeless households - 01283 508120
The Landlord Relationship Manager advises landlords about their rights and responsibilities - 01283 508149
|The Protection from Eviction Act 1977||Describes the law on Illegal Eviction and Harassment|
|Eviction from your home||The Council's web page advising tenants facing eviction what to do|
|Evicting your tenant||The Council's web page for landlords describing correct procedures for evicting tenants lawfully|