The majority of tenants cannot be evicted unless a specific legal procedure has been followed. Action taken to remove the tenant without following the correct procedure constitutes an illegal eviction.
Other actions that could constitute illegal eviction include:
- the use of violence to force the tenant out of the property
- changing the locks while the tenant is out
- stopping the tenant entering the property
- evicting the tenant without following the proper legal procedure
If a landlord has obtained a possession order but attempts to enforce it without the use of a bailiff, he or she may also be guilty of illegal eviction.
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 protects the majority of tenants from illegal eviction.
Anyone found guilty of carrying out an illegal eviction could receive a prison sentence of up to two years and or a fine.
Defence to illegal eviction
If the landlord (or person charged with illegal eviction) can prove that he or she believed (or had reasonable cause to believe) that the tenant was not living in the property, he or she has a defence.