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Overview of harassment and illegal eviction

This content applies to England & Wales

The distinction between harassment and illegal eviction and action that is intended to force the occupier to leave her/his home. 

Harassment and illegal eviction are separate offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The key distinctions between harassment and illegal eviction are explained below.

Illegal eviction

Illegal eviction (also called unlawful eviction) may have occurred when a tenant or licensee is unlawfully prevented from entering all or part of her/his accommodation. Actions that could constitute an illegal eviction include:

  • the use of violence (or threats of violence) to force an occupier to leave
  • changing the locks while the occupier is out
  • preventing an occupier from entering accommodation, which s/he has the right to occupy
  • evicting an occupier before the proper legal procedures have been followed.

In order to check whether the proper legal procedures have been followed, advisers will need to examine the security of tenure of the occupier (see the Security of tenure section for more information). Usually a landlord is required to give notice and obtain a court order for possession after the period of notice has expired before an eviction can be lawfully carried out. However, some occupiers are excluded f rom this protection - see the section on Occupiers with basic protection and excluded occupiers for details. For more information about illegal eviction, see the section on Harassment and illegal eviction.

Harassment

Harassment by a landlord (or landlord's agent) may have occurred where a landlord (or someone acting on her/his behalf) does something likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property or persistently withdraws or withholds services that the occupier reasonably requires for the occupation of the premises. Harassment by a landlord or agent might include:

  • forcing occupiers to sign agreements which take away their legal rights
  • removing or restricting essential services such as hot water or heating, or failing to pay bills so that these services are cut off
  • constant visits to the property, particularly if this occurs late at night or without warning
  • entering the accommodation when the occupier is not there, or without her/his permission
  • stopping the occupier from having guests
  • tampering with mail
  • intentionally moving in other tenants who cause nuisance
  • harassment because of gender, race, disability or sexuality
  • threats of and actual violence.

The perpetrator must have reasonable cause to believe that her/his conduct is likely to cause an occupier to leave the property or refrain from exercising her/his rights in respect of the premises in order for it to be an offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.[1] For more information about forms of harassment that are offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, see the section on harassment and illegal eviction.

Landlords and their agents can also be guilty of other forms of harassment (such as harassment which is not intended to force the occupier to leave her/his accommodation). For more information, see the section on Overview of harassment and antisocial behaviour.

[1] s.1(3A) Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

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