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Illegal eviction and harassment in private rented housing

Most landlords follow the law when dealing with tenants, but a small number ask, harass or threaten their tenants to move out of their homes without using the correct legal routes.

Illegal eviction

A landlord's right to get their property back from a residential tenant can normally only be enforced through the courts.

Illegal or unlawful eviction is when the landlord, the landlord's agent or someone acting on their behalf, unlawfully deprives a tenant of all or part of the home or where any other person forces or attempts to force a tenant to leave the accommodation without following the correct legal procedure and serving the proper notice(s) followed by court proceedings under the relevant Housing Acts.


Harassment is a criminal offence and is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as:

  • acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property, or
  • persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises  

The law protects people living in residential properties against illegal eviction and/or harassment through the Protection from Eviction Act, 1977. It does this in two ways:  

  • by making illegal eviction and/or harassment a criminal offence, and
  • by enabling someone who is being illegally evicted and/or harassed to claim damages through the civil courts

Tenant's rights

The only way a landlord can ask a tenant to leave a property is by following the relevant legislation and procedures in the Housing Acts.

When the council receives a complaint of illegal eviction and/or harassment, an investigation will be carried out and, where evidence of an offence is obtained, a prosecution will be pursued. The offence carries a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine and can be tried in both the magistrates' and crown courts.

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