What Is Illegal Eviction and What Can You Do About It?

A landlord showing a tenant out  This article is not legal advice and you should consult an attorney for any legal matters and advice”

In an illegal eviction, a landlord unlawfully evicts tenants from their property. Illegal evictions are common in the US. However, the interesting bit is both parties are often not aware that the eviction is illegal. Landlords don’t realize they are committing an illegal act and tenants don’t realize they have become a victim of illegal eviction.

In this post, we will educate both landlords and tenants about illegal eviction. This information will help landlords avoid involving in any such unlawful act. Moreover, it will guide tenants to identify an illegal eviction and how to respond to it.

Be Mindful of the Steps of a Legitimate Eviction Process

Landlords can evict tenants. But for that, they have to follow a legal procedure as prescribed in their state legislation. A legal eviction process varies from state to state. However, these points remain common among every state eviction process.

  • The landlord sending a termination notice to the tenant
  • Filing an eviction lawsuit if the tenant doesn’t make the required response to the notice
  • Obtaining a judgment for possession
  • Removing the tenant with the assistance of law enforcement

Since this eviction process takes time and entails expenses, some landlords get around it and take the eviction into their own hands. As a landlord, you must know that forgoing the constituents of any of the above steps can put you in trouble if the tenant decides to take the legal route (file a lawsuit against you).

Types of Illegal Eviction

There are several types of illegal evictions.

Retaliatory Eviction

The landlord-tenant relationship is a bumpy one and decked with contentions. Often, an issue escalates between the two parties, and the landlord retaliates by hitting the tenant with an unlawful eviction. Landlords need to be very patient in dealing with tenants. Their unmanaged anger can force them to commit an act that involves extended legal repercussions.

Eviction upon Withheld Rental Payments

Usually, the nonpayment of rent makes the ground for a landlord to issue a termination notice to the tenant and file a lawsuit against them. However, payment can be withheld because the landlord is not addressing any outstanding utility, health, or safety concerns. In this case, the landlord has to respond to those issues first. The law doesn’t allow landlords to evict a tenant if they aren’t fulfilling their rights.

Discriminatory Eviction

A landlord can never make religion, race, color, gender, family, or socioeconomic status the basis for evicting a tenant. The court of law considers it discrimination and will charge you for illegal eviction.

Self-Help Eviction Is Illegal

A landlord acting on their own to evict their property is illegal by any means in every state. However, self-help eviction doesn’t just mean forcefully throwing tenants out of the property. It also plays out in various other ways. Landlords must avoid these maneuvers and tenants should know that they can file a lawsuit if they find their landlord doing any of these things.

  • Cutting the utilities to the rented property
  • Changing the door locks of the rented property
  • Removing any part of the tenant’s belongings from the property
  • Removing the front door of the rented property

Harassment, threats, and any other means of intimidation by the landlord are also considered self-help eviction techniques.

What Tenants Can Do?

If a tenant finds out that they are subjected to unlawful eviction, they can move a local court against the landlord. Besides wrongful eviction, the tenant can sue the landlord for trespassing, slander, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress as well, depending on what self-help method they have adopted.

What Landlords Should Do?

Getting involved in an illegal eviction can stain the reputation of a landlord. Therefore, you must stick to the legal process of eviction that your state has laid down. If you want to avoid all the lawful/unlawful eviction hassle, hire a seasoned property manager for your rental home/apartment. A good property manager knows how to handle an eviction process without getting into any unlawful territory.


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