What is illegal eviction?
An illegal eviction takes place if your landlord makes you leave your home without following the proper legal process.
Can my landlord do what s/he likes?
No. There are certain actions that nearly always count as illegal eviction. Your landlord may be committing a criminal offence if s/he:
- changes the locks while you are out
- threatens you or forces you to leave
- physically throws you out
- stops you from getting into certain parts of your home.
Your landlord can legally evict you only by following the correct procedure, which varies depending on the type of agreement you have.
What if my landlord is violent?
If your landlord is violent towards you or anyone in your household, this is a criminal offence and you should contact the police. If you feel unsafe in your home because of violence or threats of violence from your landlord, your local council may have a duty to rehouse you. If you are in this situation, get advice.
What is the proper procedure?
The proper procedure for evicting you depends on the type of agreement you have with your landlord, and the reasons why s/he wants you to leave.
In most cases, your landlord has to follow 3 steps to legally evict you:
Your landlord should begin by giving you notice that s/he wants you to leave. This might be a notice to quit, a notice of seeking possession or a ‘section 21 notice’ – depending on the type of tenancy you have.
After your notice period has finished, if your landlord would like you to go, s/he has to start court action to get a possession order. If you don’t leave on the day the court says, your landlord must return to the court and ask for a bailiff’s warrant.
If your landlord does not use the correct legal procedure to evict you, they could be illegally evicting you. If at any point in this process, your landlord forces you to leave before the bailiffs arrive then you have been illegally evicted.
Certain occupiers are excluded, which means they can be evicted without a court order. This includes where they:
- live in the same building as their landlord and share living accommodation (including a bathroom, or kitchen)
- live in holiday accommodation
- don’t have any legal obligation to pay rent (and, if your home comes with your job, you don’t give your landlord/employer the equivalent money’s worth in unpaid work)
- live in a hostel or other temporary accommodation.
If you are in one of these situations and your landlord is evicting you, get advice.
If you rent from a private landlord, have a look at our pages on Eviction by a private landlord which will help you understand the right steps your landlord should be taking to evict you.
What if I live with my landlord?
If you live with your landlord in her/his home (for example, if you are a lodger), you are likely to be an excluded occupier and only entitled to reasonable notice before you have to leave. This notice can be given verbally, and should be equal to your rental period (for example, a week, if you pay your rent weekly) unless you have agreed to a different notice period in advance. It can be difficult to enforce your right to a minimum notice period but it is illegal for your landlord to use violence to get you to leave. If this happens, call the police.
What if the council or a housing association is my landlord?
Councils and housing associations have the same responsibility as all landlords to follow the correct legal procedure for evicting you. See our advice pages below to find out what the rules are for your type of tenancy:
If the council or your housing association is evicting you, get independent advice immediately. If you feel you have been treated badly, you may be able to complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
What if the problem isn’t my landlord?
If you believe that the person causing problems is acting on behalf of your landlord (for example, if it’s a friend of your landlord or someone s/he deliberately moved in to make life difficult for you) many of the rules on harassment and illegal eviction still apply. You may be able to take action against both your landlord and the person harassing you, but you will need advice first.
What can I do if I’ve been illegally evicted?
If you are evicted illegally, you may be able to:
- get help from the council – they may be able to help you negotiate with your landlord and, in extreme circumstances, they may prosecute landlords
- take your landlord to court – you may be able to get an injunction allowing you back into your home, or to claim compensation if you’ve lost out financially.
How can an adviser help me?
If you have been evicted and are not sure of your rights, get advice immediately. An adviser should be able to:
- tell you whether you have any chance of getting back into your home or reclaiming your belongings and, if so, help you to do so
- help you find somewhere else to live
- help you take court action against your landlord.
Many illegal evictions take place after office hours so it can be difficult to get help. Call the police and the person at the council who deals with harassment and illegal eviction (sometimes called a tenancy relations officer). The council may be able to give you advice and negotiate with your landlord.
You can also download our free factsheet on ‘unlawful eviction’.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.