It is a criminal offence to evict a tenant in residential accommodation, other than via the courts. This is under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
A landlord can be prosecuted under this act and if convicted can face a fine or up to two years imprisonment.
The only circumstances under which a landlord can safely re-enter a property and change the locks will be if it has genuinely been abandoned by the tenant(s). However, this is often difficult to determine.
Actual physical eviction of residential tenants should only ever be done by a court bailiff authorised by a court order.
Although note that in some circumstances a tenant can be evicted after service of a notice from the Home Office if the tenants do not have a right to rent in the UK – although you will usually need to use a High Court Enforcement Officer. Find out more about this in the Right to Rent section.
Some occupiers are not protected by the Protection from Eviction Act, for example, lodgers who are sharing accommodation with their landlord.
However, even here the landlord should tread very carefully. He should give the lodger proper notice to vacate (save in exceptional circumstances) and should not use any force or violence when evicting.
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