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Legal remedies through Protection from Eviction Act 1977

This content applies to England & Wales

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 protects residential occupiers. Breaches of the Act can give rise to a civil action and be a criminal offence.

See the sections on Civil action and Criminal action for more information about the procedures involved.


A residential occupier is defined as a person who has a legal right to occupy accommodation as a residence, or to restrict other people from gaining possession of the accommodation.[1] This means that most tenants and licensees and members of their household are residential occupiers for as long as they remain in lawful occupation. Any tenant or licensee is protected while their contract (written or verbal) is still in effect. If the contract has ended or been brought to an end by a valid notice, then the protection will usually not end as most occupiers are protected further by the fact that a court order is required before they can be legally evicted. See the section Security of tenure for more information about these requirements.

For most occupiers, it is necessary for the landlord to give a minimum of 28 days notice (in some cases more), and obtain a court order for possession after the period of notice has expired. The occupier only ceases to be a residential occupier within the meaning of the Protection from Eviction Act once the court order has been obtained and has come into force.

A banning order can be made against a landlord or agent who has been convicted of a banning order offence - unlawful eviction and harassment under s.1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 is a banning order offence.

For more information on the offences under the Act see What is harassment and What is illegal eviction

Excluded occupiers

Landlords of some residential occupiers, known as excluded occupiers, are not required to obtain a court order under the Protection from Eviction Act. In order to benefit from the protection of the Act, the person must occupy the accommodation as a 'dwelling'.

Categories of excluded occupier

An occupier will be excluded from taking action under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 if the:[2]

  • accommodation is shared with the landlord
  • landlord lives in the same building and accommodation is shared with a member of the landlord's family (as defined in section 113 of the Housing Act 1985). This does not apply if the building is a purpose-built block of flats
  • tenancy or licence was granted as a temporary expedient to a trespasser
  • letting was for the purposes of a holiday only
  • letting is rent free
  • accommodation is a hostel and the landlord is a local authority or certain other public bodies
  • accommodation is provided by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS)[3]
  • (from 1 December 2016) Home Office has served a 'section 33D' disqualification notice[4] on the landlord that all the adult occupiers under the tenancy or licence do not have the right to rent.[5]

Temporary accommodation provided to a homeless applicant

Where a person is accommodated under the duty to provide temporary accommodation on an interim basis under the Housing Act 1996, such a person has been held by the Supreme Court not to be occupying the accommodation as a 'dwelling', and is therefore not covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.[6] See Interim duty to accommodate in the Applications, inquiries and decisions section for more information.

Notice and lawful eviction requirements

Landlords of excluded occupiers are not required to give notice to quit and/or get a court order, but can still be found guilty of harassment or illegal eviction if they fail to give 'reasonable notice' of the eviction. Note, however, that where a previously protected tenancy (or licence) has become excluded following service of a Home Office 'no right to rent' notice (see bullet point list above), the landlord does not require a court order to evict, but must serve a minimum of 28 days' notice. See Right to rent for details.

Excluded occupiers are also protected from violence (other than 'reasonable' force) being used during an eviction under the Criminal Law Act 1977. They may also have a cause of action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (see the section on Harassment and antisocial behaviour for more information) or other legislation relating to violence (see the sections on Antisocial behaviour and harassment and Offences involving violence for further information.) Also, see the section on Basic protection/excluded occupiers for more information about the rights of excluded occupiers.

Occupiers not covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977

Trespassers such as squatters are not covered by a contract and have no rights of occupation. They are therefore not normally classed as residential occupiers. Tenants of mortgagors, once the landlord's lender has obtained a possession order, also have no rights of occupation (although the court can postpone possession for up to two months) and are not protected unless the tenancy predates the mortgage. This also applies to illegal subtenants. See the sections on Tenants of mortgagors and Subtenants for more information.

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

[2] s.3A Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

[3] s.3A(7A) Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as amended by para 73 Sch.14 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

[4] s.33D Immigration Act 2014 inserted by s.40(2) Immigration Act 2016.

[5] s.3A(7D) Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as amended by s.40(5) Immigration Act 2016.

[6] R (on the application of ZH and CN) v Newham LBC and Lewisham LBC and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2014] UKSC 62.

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