How to deal with illegal eviction

Can your landlord kick you out?

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Call your emergency contacts 

Call someone for support. You could call a friend or family member. If you've spoken to a renters union or the council you could call them too.

How to speak to your landlord

Speak calmly and explain that they are breaking the law. 

Explain that you are protected by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and only court appointed bailiffs can evict you.

Explain what actions you have taken or will take, for example if you have:

  • got legal advice

  • spoken to the council

  • contacted the police 

Tell them that penalties for illegal eviction include:

  • an unlimited fine

  • a prison sentence 

  • criminal record

  • civil action with unlimited damages 

Use our template

If you're not sure what to say you can show or email your landlord this information:

My home is occupied under a legal tenancy agreement.

My tenancy is legally binding even if not in writing.

As a residential occupier I am protected from unlawful eviction.

You must apply to court to evict a tenant lawfully. Only court appointed bailiffs can enforce an eviction.

Any individual who deliberately and unlawfully deprives the occupier of their occupation of this property commits a criminal offence (section 1, Protection from Eviction Act 1977).

By law, you must stop all attempts to deprive me of my home or risk arrest, a custodial prison sentence, an unlimited fine or civil action with unlimited damages.

You can also download a copy for your reference:

Record what happens 

You could film your landlord to use as evidence later on. If you do not want to film, note down what happened. 

Keep yourself safe

If the situation becomes violent or you feel unsafe, it could be better to leave and come back.

If you do this your landlord will probably carry out the illegal eviction.  

You can use reasonable force such as changing the locks or breaking a window to get back into your home, but do it quickly.

You may have to pay for the repairs if you cause damage.

You could call the police

The police often do not understand the law on illegal eviction so they may tell you it’s a civil matter.

The police will generally only come out to protect you if there’s a risk of violence. Otherwise they will probably advise by phone.

They could help mediate between you and your landlord and they can arrest your landlord.

Find out what you can expect from the police so you can decide whether you want to call them.

If you do call, make sure you get a CAD number and take down the ID numbers of the officers attending.

Use our template

If the attending officers say it is a civil matter, show or email them this information:

SHELTER'S ADVICE FOR POLICE OFFICERS ATTENDING AN ILLEGAL EVICTION

Most tenants can only be evicted lawfully by an order of the court.

An eviction must be overseen by a county court bailiff or a high court enforcement officer.

If there is no court officer present, it is most likely an illegal eviction.

The landlord must apply to court to evict this tenant lawfully.

WHAT POLICE OFFICERS CAN DO 

  • WARN the landlord or agent that they may well be committing a criminal offence and should leave.

  • PERSUADE the landlord to let the tenant back in, change the locks back or give the tenant a key.

  • GATHER EVIDENCE that may be relevant to a criminal offence. This could include assault, breach of the peace, or harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

  • ARREST THE LANDLORD OR AGENT under section 24(1), Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 if they are committing or about to commit an offence. This would include trying to get into the premises against the wishes of the tenant.

  • REPORT THE LANDORD TO THE COUNCIL - Use the London Assembly website if in a London borough. Outside of London you should contact a tenancy relations officer or the private sector housing team. 

  • CONTACT THE COUNCIL'S HOMELESS TEAM - If you cannot help the tenant to access their home, the homeless team may have a legal duty to provide emergency housing for some tenants. All councils have an out of hours team if it's after 5pm.

THE LAW 

All residential occupiers are protected from harassment and illegal eviction. 

Under section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, it's a criminal offence to:

  • deliberately and unlawfully deprive the occupier of their occupation of the property

  • carry out acts intended to cause the occupier to give up the property or their rights under the tenancy

Criminal offences are prosecuted by the local authority.

Lodgers are not entitled to a court order before eviction. The landlord must have lived in the property and shared living space with the occupier throughout the agreement.

Squatters are not entitled to a court order before eviction. But an occupier is only a squatter if they entered the property knowing they were trespassing. This is rare.

A tenant without a written tenancy agreement or whose fixed term agreement has ended is still a tenant and can only be evicted lawfully by bailiffs.

You can download and save a copy for your reference:

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Last updated: 10 July 2023

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