What is illegal eviction?

Landlords must follow the correct procedures to evict private tenants and lodgers. 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. 

If bailiffs are required to evict you, it's illegal eviction if your landlord forces you to leave before the bailiffs arrive, even if your landlord has a court order for you to leave.

Your landlord must follow rules on how you can be evicted.

Rules for eviction of an assured shorthold tenant

Rules for the eviction of lodgers

Actions that count as illegal eviction

It's usually 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
  • changes the locks while you're out

When eviction by bailiffs is needed

Only a bailiff can lawfully evict you from your home if you are a private tenant. 

Before the bailiffs can come, your landlord must:

  • give you notice to leave
  • go to a court for a possession order
  • apply to a court for bailiffs to evict you

This applies if you have an assured shorthold tenancy, an assured tenancy or a regulated tenancy

It also applies if you live in the same building as your landlord, but don't share accommodation with them (you are classed as an occupier with basic protection).

Three steps to eviction landlord must follow

When eviction by a landlord is allowed

Your landlord can evict you from some types of accommodation if you stayed on after either:

  • the end of a fixed term contract
  • the end of the period set out in a legal notice to leave

This applies if you are:

Your landlord must not use threats or violence to evict you but they can change the locks while you are out.

Contact the council about illegal eviction

Your council might have a tenancy relations or private rented housing team who:

  • can negotiate with your landlord to try to get you back into your home
  • may prosecute landlords for illegal eviction in some cases

If you're threatened with homelessness or actually homeless following an illegal eviction you can ask the council's homeless section for help.

Find out more about how councils help tenants facing illegal eviction

Call the police

Call the police if you're being illegally evicted by a private landlord and your landlord is violent or threatens violence.

Call 999 if a crime is happening now or someone is in immediate danger.

Find police contact numbers

The police should come to your home if they can prevent violence or a breach of the peace. They can act to stop a breach of the peace. The police should not help the landlord to evict you.

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it a criminal offence for your landlord to evict you without following the correct legal steps.

Harassment is a criminal offence. A landlord who tries to make you leave by threatening violence may be guilty of harassment.

Show the police a copy of your tenancy agreement if they need proof you are a tenant.

Get free legal advice 

Get advice as soon as you can if you're facing eviction.

You may qualify for legal aid (free advice or representation) if you're on a low income:

Call Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 to see if you qualify

You can get advice from Shelter regardless of your income:

Call our emergency helpline for initial telephone advice

Look for a Shelter service in your area

Have your notice and court paperwork with you when you speak to an adviser.

Last updated 05 May 2017 | © Shelter

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