5.13 Unlawful Eviction
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it a criminal offence for any
person to unlawfully deprive a ‘residential occupier’ of their occupation of
the premises. This means that, unless the tenant agrees to vacate, the only
legal way a landlord can evict a tenant is by obtaining a court order. Any
term in the tenancy agreement that says otherwise will be void.
‘Residential occupier’ is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
It covers virtually everyone living in residential accommodation including
tenants who rent from a private landlord, and any of their friends or visitors
who have gained lawful access to the property. It is a common belief that
this Act does not apply to licences. In almost all cases, it does.
The Act does specify certain limited classes of occupier, in particular
lodgers who share living accommodation with their landlords, but even
here eviction must not involve any force. If considering evicting a lodger
the landlord should still seek legal advice before evicting because getting
it wrong could be a criminal offence.
The procedures for lawful eviction of tenants are laid out in the various
Housing and Rent Acts as detailed above.