Harassment and eviction

The law protects tenants against harassment and illegal eviction. This section describes some of the forms harassment may take and sets out what tenants can do if they are being harassed or are threatened with illegal eviction.

What can I do if my landlord wants me to leave?

Most tenants are entitled to a written notice telling them to leave a property even if your landlord did not give you a written agreement to live there in the first place. The only exception to this is where you are sharing the living accommodation, for example, a kitchen or bathroom with your landlord, in this case, the landlord only has to verbally ask you to leave.

The amount of time given in the notice depends on the type of tenancy you have or the grounds on which your landlord is seeking possession. You are not required to leave until the notice runs out, and even then may not be evicted without the order of the court.

If your landlord makes you leave your home without following the proper legal process it is an illegal eviction, which is a serious criminal offence.

Shelter has a guide to help tenants check whether a landlord can evict them:

Shelter - Eviction rights checker (external website)

Further information about the eviction process can be found on the GOV.UK website:

GOV.UK - Private renting for tenants: eviction (external website)

GOV.UK - Understanding the possession action process (external website)

What is a section 21 notice?

A section 21 notice is the most commonly used way to begin the eviction process for tenants with an assured shorthold tenancy.

If a tenant signed a new contract or a renewal agreement on or after 1 October 2015, a section 21 notice must be on special form and give at least two months notice. A landlord cannot use a section 21 notice to evict a tenant during the fixed term of a contract and it cannot be served within the first four months of a tenancy.

A landlord doesn't have to give a reason for wanting a tenant to leave but must have given the tenant certain documents at the start of the tenancy and also have followed certain rules for protecting a tenancy deposit.

A section 21 does not have to be on a special form if a tenancy started before 1 October 2015 and a tenant has not signed a renewal agreement after this date. The notice, however, must be in writing and give a minimum of two months' notice. If you have a periodic tenancy, one that runs for example from month to month and it never had a fixed term, the notice must also:

  • state it is being issued under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988

  • end on the last day of a tenancy period which is usually the day before rent is due.

What is an illegal eviction?

An illegal eviction takes place if your landlord, or a person acting on his or her behalf, make you leave your home without following the correct legal process. The procedure that a landlord needs to follow will depend on the type tenancy agreement you have.

If a landlord illegally evicts a tenant it is a serious criminal offence.

Some examples of illegal eviction are:

  • changing the locks while you are out
  • stopping you from using parts of your home
  • removing you from your home by force
  • moving into a part of your home.

What is retaliatory eviction?

Retaliatory eviction is where a tenant makes a legitimate complaint to their landlord about the condition of their property and, in response, instead of making the repair, the landlord serves them with a section 21 notice asking them to leave.

If a tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy or a renewal agreement which started on or after 1 October 2015 and is given a section 21 notice it will be invalid where all these apply:

  • before the section 21 notice was issued, the tenant made a complaint in writing either by email or letter to the landlord regarding the condition of the property. A tenant will be considered to have made a complaint if they did not know the landlord's postal or email address, or had made reasonable efforts to contact the landlord to complain but could not

  • the landlord:

    • did not provide a response within 14 days of the complaint being made
    • did not describe the action they would take to fix the problem or give a reasonable timescale within which action would be taken, or
    • served a section 21 notice following the complaint being made by the tenant
  • the tenant then complained to the council about the same or a very similar issue

  • the council sent the landlord a housing improvement notice or emergency remedial action notice because the property was found, following a visit in response to the complaint, to have a serious health or safety hazard

  • and if the section 21 notice was not given before the tenant's complaint to the council, it was given before the service of the relevant notice.

If the council serve a landlord with a relevant housing notice, a valid section 21 notice can not be issued within six months of the council's notice. A section 21 will be valid if it is served after 6 months have passed.

The situation does not apply where a landlord uses the section 8 court procedure for evicting a tenant. In order for a landlord to rely on the section 8 procedure, there are certain grounds that have to be met, for example, where a tenant fails to pay the rent or has been involved in anti-social behaviour.

You can use the following example letter to report any repair problems to your landlord. You should always keep a copy of the letter you send. For urgent issues, you may also wish to telephone your landlord.

Sample letter for reporting repairs to your landlord (pdf 14kb)

What is harassment?

Harassment can include anything done by a landlord, or by anyone working on his or her behalf, which prevents or interferes with a person living peacefully in their home. The law protects you against harassment as it is a serious criminal offence.

Harassment can take many different forms, for example:

  • constant visits from your landlord or landlord's agent and visits late at night or without prior warning
  • entering your home when you are not there or without your permission
  • threatening you or interfering with your post
  • allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that it is dangerous or uncomfortable to stay there
  • removing or restricting services such as hot water or heating or failing to pay bills so that services are disconnected
  • forcing you to sign agreements, which reduce your rights.

What can I do if I am being harassed or threatened with illegal eviction?

If you think that you are being harassed or are threatened with illegal eviction, you should seek advice before you leave the property and:

  • keep an accurate record or diary detailing incidents that have happened, including dates and times
  • keep a record of the names and, where possible, addresses of anyone who has been involved, including witnesses or police officers
  • try and have someone present with you as a witness if you have to deal with your landlord
  • if you have been subjected to violence or threats of violence you should contact the police
  • report it to us to investigate.

If you are evicted from a property you have a right to live in, we will initially speak to your landlord to try to get him or her to let you back in.

Emergencies out of hours

If you need urgent help outside of normal office hours or at the weekend, you should call the police.

If you need advice or emergency accommodation call us on (01482) 393939, and we may be able to help.

Should the police attend an incident, you can show or give them the following guidance document.

Guidance notes for police officers on eviction and harassment (pdf 85kb)

Further advice:

Further advice:

You can also get free advice from the housing charity Shelter on the Shelter website or by calling their helpline on 0808 800 4444. The helpline is open 365 days of the year from 8am until 8pm on weekdays and 8am - 5pm on weekends. Calls are free from UK landlines and all major mobile operators.

An illegally evicted tenant can also use the courts to get a landlord to allow you back into the property. You will normally need a solicitor to take this action. You can find a solicitor on the find a solicitor on the Law Society website.

You might be able to get free and confidential advice from Civil Legal Advice (CLA) as part of legal aid if you’re in England or Wales:

How can I report harassment or illegal eviction?

Before reporting an issue please read the following guide on how to rent a safe home and what to expect if you contact the council:

Information for Tenants and Landlords (pdf 1.3mb)

Report harassment or illegal eviction

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