What is illegal eviction?

Your landlord must follow the correct procedures to evict you from your home. It's illegal eviction if they don't.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence

It's a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal steps for eviction.

The rules on how and when your landlord can evict you depend on whether you are a private tenant, a council tenant or a housing association tenant.

Harassment is also a criminal offence. A landlord who tries to make you leave by threatening violence or making it hard for you to stay may be guilty of harassment.

Call the police if your landlord is violent or threatens violence towards you or anyone you live with.

Contact your local council to ask for help. It can prosecute your landlord for illegal eviction and harassment. 

Actions that count as illegal eviction

It nearly always counts as illegal eviction if your landlord:

  • forces you to leave by threatening or harassing you
  • physically throws you out
  • stops you from getting into certain parts of your home

It's also illegal eviction if your landlord changes the locks while you are out, if the correct procedure for eviction has not been followed.

Illegal eviction of private tenants

Only a bailiff can lawfully evict you from your home if you are a private tenant and have an assured shorthold tenancy or a pre-1989 'fair rent' or regulated tenancy'.

Before the bailiffs can come, your landlord must:

  1. give you notice to leave
  2. go to a court for a possession order
  3. apply to a court for bailiffs to evict you

It's illegal eviction if your landlord forces you to leave before bailiffs arrive, even if your landlord has obtained a court order requiring you to leave or has given you written notice to leave.

Find out more about how private tenants can be evicted.

Three steps to eviction landlord must follow

Illegal eviction if you have a resident landlord or are in short-term housing

In some cases, a landlord doesn't need to send bailiffs to evict you. Your landlord usually only has to give you reasonable notice to leave to evict you from:

You must leave at the end of the notice period.

Reasonable notice is a week for a weekly rental agreement, a month for a monthly agreement. The minimum period of a notice to quit is 28 days and this is usually considered sufficient.

It's illegal eviction if your resident landlord doesn't give you reasonable notice to leave, changes the locks or forces you to leave before any notice given has expired.

What to do if you are facing illegal eviction

Contact the council

The council can prosecute a landlord for illegal eviction. Your local council should have a tenancy relations or similar service that can help if you are being threatened with illegal eviction or have been illegally evicted. Use the Gov.uk council search to find details of your local council.

Find out what the council can do about illegal eviction.

Call the police

Ask the police for help if you're being illegally evicted. The police should come to your home if they can prevent violence or a breach of the peace. Call 999 in an emergency.

Sometimes the police may not know the law about illegal eviction. You can tell them that the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal steps. The police should not enable or assist an eviction by a landlord, but can act to stop a breach of the peace.

Show the police a copy of your tenancy agreement.

Get free legal advice and help

Call Shelter's helpline on 0808 800 4444

Legal aid is available to fight unlawful eviction, to obtain an injunction for getting back into your home, and compensation.

Find out more about what to do after illegal eviction.

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