The exact procedures vary according to the particular type of tenancy or licence agreement the occupier has.
Action taken by a landlord or any other person to deprive an occupier of access to all or part of their accommodation without following the correct legal procedures constitutes illegal eviction.
Before deciding whether a person has been evicted illegally it is necessary to check whether any legal action has been taken to end the tenancy or licence and whether the legal procedures have been followed correctly.
What can constitute an illegal eviction?
An illegal eviction can take place in a variety of ways, such as:
- Force (e.g. being physically removed from the property)
- The locks being changed while the tenant is out
- Being denied re-entry
- The occupier being deprived of access to a part of the premises which he/she is entitled to occupy (such as locking a toilet door or blocking access to a living room)
Any person, not just the landlord or their agent, can commit the offence of illegal eviction.
Illegal eviction may not be permanent, that is an illegal eviction can take place for a short period of time or if the occupier is subsequently reinstated in the accommodation.
Court order for possession
If the landlord has obtained a court order for possession against the tenant, and he/she subsequently engages a bailiff in executing the order for possession, this does not constitute an illegal eviction and will not be an offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
However, where a landlord who has obtained an order for possession resorts to self-help to take possession of the premises her/himself without involving a bailiff, he/she may be guilty of unlawful eviction.
If this happens, the tenant may claim damages under section 28 of the Housing Act 1988.
Who are considered excluded occupiers?
In relation to excluded occupiers, this is basically someone who shares living space such as a kitchen, bathroom or living room with their landlord.
This includes lodgers, although there is no requirement for a court order.
In this situation, the landlord must simply give reasonable notice, otherwise they may still be found guilty of harassment and illegal eviction.
Once the period of reasonable notice has expired, the excluded occupier is protected from 'violent eviction', other than 'reasonable force' during an eviction by the landlord.