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KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. A landlord cannot forcibly remove a tenant unless they’ve gone to court to get a warrant for eviction or possession order.
  2. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant before filing the correct paperwork, it’s classified as an illegal/wrongful eviction.
  3. In most states, landlords can serve an unconditional quit notice only when the renter has repeatedly violated one or more lease or rental agreement clauses. This includes being late with rent, severely damaging the property, etc.

Every landlord dreams of the perfect tenant: one who pays rent on time, keeps the property in check, and follows the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

However, if a tenant stops paying rent, breaches these agreements, or fails to vacate, a landlord’s instinct is to remove the resident from the property. In theory, the sooner the tenant is removed the better, as it means the homeowner can swiftly find another occupant to continue with the mortgage repayments.

In reality, the eviction process can be timely and costly, meaning the landlord may decide to take matters into their own hands. But let us stop you here, and stress that wrongful (see: illegal) evictions can be more of a headache to the homeowner than the non-compliant tenant themselves.

While we hope no landlord ever finds themselves in such a situation, it’s important to be aware of the do’s, don’ts, and most importantly, legalities around wrongful evictions.

Similarly, as a tenant, you must be aware of what constitutes a wrongful eviction should you also need to fight back.

Here is the ultimate handbook for landlords and tenants on wrongful evictions.

What Is a Wrongful Eviction?

A wrongful eviction is an eviction that doesn’t comply with state and federal laws surrounding evictions. They occur when landlords prevent the current occupant from entering the property, even if they have a right to be there. This could be through intimidation, threats, or actions.

As a landlord, you must remember that regardless of whether the tenant is in arrears, they still have rights. This means a homeowner cannot lock the resident out of the property without following existing legal procedures.

Ultimately, it’s not worth embroiling yourself in a wrongful eviction case because, for the landlord, it often leads to more expenditure and hassle. This can include paying additional damage fees, reimbursing the tenant for lost rent and/or deposits, and paying penalty fines.

Wrongful Eviction Examples

Landlords and tenants, listen up. Below are various examples of wrongful evictions:

Changing the locks

It is illegal for a landlord to prevent a tenant’s access to the property by changing the locks - unless the occupant has been legally evicted already. Tenants (excluding the legally evicted ones) who experience this have the right to contact their local council’s housing department, or the homelessness department to dispute the issue.

If the landlord's act renders you homeless, go to the council building immediately with your ID and explain your situation. Those who believe they have been wrongfully evicted should also instruct a housing lawyer.

Removing a tenant’s belongings from the property

In most cases, this happens once a tenant has abandoned the property or a writ of restitution has been served. This is at the landlord's request and gives the high court enforcement officer, agent, or sheriff the right to post a vacate notice on the tenant’s door. It includes a period for them to leave the property with their possessions.

However, suppose a landlord removes the belongings without adhering to state and local criteria, or empties the property before the tenant’s writ of restitution time is up. In that case, the occupant can make a wrongful eviction claim.

Cutting off utilities

Landlords will typically cut off utilities as an unethical eviction technique. Without essentials like hot water and electricity, they hope the tenant will swiftly vacate. But, this defies the homeowner’s responsibility of providing the renter with a safe and habitable property.

Many states have laws that protect tenants’ rights in this instance. This includes requiring landlords to pay monetary damages to the occupant.

For example, in Arizona, the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act states that if a landlord “wilfully diminishes services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of electric, gas, water or other essential service to the tenant,” then the tenant may either recover possession of the rental unit or terminate the rental agreement.

In either case, they may also “recover an amount of up to two months’ rent or twice the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater.”

The only time it is acceptable for a landlord to turn off such services is when necessary repairs are taking place. Even so, the renter must have received an advanced warning about this.

Threatening the tenant

Any kind of threat, force, extortion, or menacing actions that compromise a tenant’s safety and right to enjoy the property is considered a wrongful eviction. Additionally, if the tenant the landlord is trying to evict also has volatile behavior, threatening actions against them could prove to be dangerous.

If the tenant feels unsafe in any way, they have the right to seek legal action against the landlord.

wrongful-eviction-examples

What Landlords Need To Know About Wrongful Evictions

To avoid a wrongful eviction lawsuit, landlords must be aware of the following rules and regulations when attempting to evict a tenant:

Providing notice

The landlord cannot immediately evict a tenant without providing written notice to the occupant. Doing so will result in a wrongful eviction. The notice must include the reason for eviction, a notice period, and a deadline to correct the issue (i.e., pay outstanding rent) if relevant.

For example, in California, it is illegal for landlords to forcibly remove tenants before the 30-day notice period is up.

Court proceedings

Tenants who don’t comply with the lease agreement are eligible for a court-ordered eviction filed by the landlord. During this process, the renter will receive an opportunity to explain why they failed to uphold the lease terms.

Only then will a judge decide on the fate of the eviction. A landlord cannot independently evict the tenant - this also equates to a wrongful eviction.

What happens if a landlord loses the eviction case?

A landlord risks losing a lot should they be defeated during a wrongful eviction case. This includes:

Reputation

In the US, eviction cases are highly publicized. This means homeowners who lose wrongful eviction cases will be known to the public and prospective renters. Therefore, future rentals will prove to be more difficult to secure if you have a poor reputation.

Financial losses

Landlords can incur financial losses in multiple ways. Firstly, losing a wrongful eviction lawsuit can result in the homeowner having to pay the tenant’s legal fees. Judges can also serve fines on landlords proven to have acted indecently towards the tenants.

Examples of this include threatening behavior, turning off utilities, etc. In terms of damages to a property made by the tenant, a landlord may recoup some costs by resolving the issue in a small claims court.

Elsewhere, homeowners also face rental income losses during the eviction case - especially if the tenant continues to avoid paying rent. Landlords who depend on their rental income as their main source of earnings can be severely impacted.

Insurance issues

Landlords with a history of losing wrongful eviction lawsuits often struggle to renew or secure insurance. Insurance companies are likely to look at a homeowner’s history and refrain from granting insurance policies to those with a higher risk of landlord-tenant disputes.

wrongful-eviction-table

What Tenants need to know about Wrongful evictions

From a tenant’s perspective, this is everything you need to know:

Valid reasoning

A landlord needs a valid reason to evict a tenant. This includes instances such as non-payment of rent, damage to the rental property, or illegal/criminal activity on the rental property.

Eviction process

A landlord must also follow an eviction process governed by state law and local ordinances. If they don’t follow the legal process, they risk the consequences of breaking the lease agreement.

However, if you’ve always been a model tenant, and your landlord is evicting you for reasons such as wanting to sell the property, some states operate a policy called ‘just cause eviction.’

This requires the homeowner to provide a valid reason for eviction, such as unpaid rent, property damage, etc. If they cannot prove evidence of this, the eviction is invalid. Should they try to continue with the tenant removal anyway, it is considered a wrongful eviction.

Since 2019, California, Oregon, and Washington have all adopted this policy. According to Governing.com, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York have considered it.

How much can a tenant sue a landlord for wrongful eviction?

The amount of a wrongful eviction settlement depends on the state and the damages caused. Examples of damages include the cost of temporary housing, moving expenses, increased rent if the new property is more expensive, and lost wages or job opportunities.

Further claims can be made for any medical costs incurred due to the eviction, or emotional distress.

Seeking legal advice is advised if tenants want to ensure they receive the appropriate compensation amount for the ordeal.

But to give you an idea of some reparation payments, in California, a landlord is liable for triple the rent amount that the tenant would have paid had they not been wrongfully evicted.

In Florida, section 83.67 of the Florida Statutes states that landlords guilty of wrongful evictions are liable to pay the tenant for ‘actual, consequential damages or three month's rent, whichever is greater.’ They may also be required to pay the tenant’s litigation and attorney fees.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Evictions?

According to Collins Dictionary, “If there is a statute of limitations on a legal case such as a crime, people can no longer be accused after a certain period of time has passed.’

Again, this differs from state to state, so you need to check the state in which the action would be filed. What remains the same is the clock starts ticking when you are evicted and removed from the rented property, not when you receive the eviction notice.

In California, the statute of limitations for the breach of a written contract is four years from the date the contract was broken. For property damage, it’s three years from the date the damage occurred. In Tennesse, as per TN Code § 47-2A-506, an “action for default under a lease contract, including breach of warranty or indemnity, must be commenced within four (4) years after the cause of action accrued.”

Do Wrongful Eviction Laws and Rights Differ State by State?

In short, yes - eviction laws and regulations vary widely across the United States. However, it is unanimously agreed upon that evictions, i.e., when the landlord takes matters into their own hands without following proper legal procedures, are illegal.

Here are snippets of information from eight different states so you can gauge how things work in each.

Wrongful evictions in California In California, tenants may be awarded up to $100 per day (with a minimum of $250 per violation) to cover losses like punitive damages and interim housing fees. The tenant may also block the landlord from illegally evicting through the pursuit of a civil court injunction.
Wrongful evictions in Florida In Florida, it is illegal to evict a tenant without providing them fair notice. If a tenant misses a rent payment, landlords can issue them an eviction notice. Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes states that the landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice allowing three (3) days to make the rent payment. If a landlord evicts them before this period, it is considered a wrongful eviction.
Wrongful evictions in Tennessee In Tennessee, a landlord cannot force a tenant to move out without an eviction notice. Failing to give the tenant an eviction notice and avoiding proper eviction processes makes the landlord liable for a forceful eviction conviction.
Wrongful evictions in Texas Under Texas law, tenants are covered by the protection from Landlord Retaliation. Retaliatory evictions are illegal in Texas.
Wrongful evictions in Arizona As per the 2023 Arizona Revised Statutes Title 33 - Property § 33-2148, ‘a landlord shall not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services.’ Threatening or acting upon the threat is also prohibited, and could bring on a wrongful eviction lawsuit.
Wrongful evictions in Georgia In Georgia, even if a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit, only a constable or sheriff is allowed to remove or evict the tenant.
Wrongful evictions in Minnesota As of January 1, 2024, a landlord must issue a 14-day written notice before filing for eviction on the grounds of non-payment of rent. Filing for eviction before this period could see the landlord liable for wrongful eviction.
Wrongful evictions in North Carolina In North Carolina, an eviction case is called “summary ejectment.” To get an eviction, the landlord must file a “Complaint in Summary Ejectment” with the clerk of court. Failure to do so may result in a wrongful eviction lawsuit.

wrongful-eviction-map

To ensure your eviction process is deemed legal, avoid:

  • Not following court proceedings: Landlords cannot evict a tenant without filing a legal eviction notice - the judge makes the final decision on whether the tenant should be removed
  • Taking matters into your own hands: Landlords should not change the locks, cut off the utilities, or use threatening behavior to force a tenant out.

If you’re a landlord and need to file an eviction notice, take a look at our template to help make the complex process that little bit easier.

Official Resources:

Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities - Arizona Law Help

Good Cause - Governing.

Florida Statutes Title VI - FindLaw

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. A landlord cannot forcibly remove a tenant unless they’ve gone to court to get a warrant for eviction or possession order.
  2. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant before filing the correct paperwork, it’s classified as an illegal/wrongful eviction.
  3. In most states, landlords can serve an unconditional quit notice only when the renter has repeatedly violated one or more lease or rental agreement clauses. This includes being late with rent, severely damaging the property, etc.

Every landlord dreams of the perfect tenant: one who pays rent on time, keeps the property in check, and follows the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

However, if a tenant stops paying rent, breaches these agreements, or fails to vacate, a landlord’s instinct is to remove the resident from the property. In theory, the sooner the tenant is removed the better, as it means the homeowner can swiftly find another occupant to continue with the mortgage repayments.

In reality, the eviction process can be timely and costly, meaning the landlord may decide to take matters into their own hands. But let us stop you here, and stress that wrongful (see: illegal) evictions can be more of a headache to the homeowner than the non-compliant tenant themselves.

While we hope no landlord ever finds themselves in such a situation, it’s important to be aware of the do’s, don’ts, and most importantly, legalities around wrongful evictions.

Similarly, as a tenant, you must be aware of what constitutes a wrongful eviction should you also need to fight back.

Here is the ultimate handbook for landlords and tenants on wrongful evictions.

What Is a Wrongful Eviction?

A wrongful eviction is an eviction that doesn’t comply with state and federal laws surrounding evictions. They occur when landlords prevent the current occupant from entering the property, even if they have a right to be there. This could be through intimidation, threats, or actions.

As a landlord, you must remember that regardless of whether the tenant is in arrears, they still have rights. This means a homeowner cannot lock the resident out of the property without following existing legal procedures.

Ultimately, it’s not worth embroiling yourself in a wrongful eviction case because, for the landlord, it often leads to more expenditure and hassle. This can include paying additional damage fees, reimbursing the tenant for lost rent and/or deposits, and paying penalty fines.

Wrongful Eviction Examples

Landlords and tenants, listen up. Below are various examples of wrongful evictions:

Changing the locks

It is illegal for a landlord to prevent a tenant’s access to the property by changing the locks - unless the occupant has been legally evicted already. Tenants (excluding the legally evicted ones) who experience this have the right to contact their local council’s housing department, or the homelessness department to dispute the issue.

If the landlord's act renders you homeless, go to the council building immediately with your ID and explain your situation. Those who believe they have been wrongfully evicted should also instruct a housing lawyer.

Removing a tenant’s belongings from the property

In most cases, this happens once a tenant has abandoned the property or a writ of restitution has been served. This is at the landlord's request and gives the high court enforcement officer, agent, or sheriff the right to post a vacate notice on the tenant’s door. It includes a period for them to leave the property with their possessions.

However, suppose a landlord removes the belongings without adhering to state and local criteria, or empties the property before the tenant’s writ of restitution time is up. In that case, the occupant can make a wrongful eviction claim.

Cutting off utilities

Landlords will typically cut off utilities as an unethical eviction technique. Without essentials like hot water and electricity, they hope the tenant will swiftly vacate. But, this defies the homeowner’s responsibility of providing the renter with a safe and habitable property.

Many states have laws that protect tenants’ rights in this instance. This includes requiring landlords to pay monetary damages to the occupant.

For example, in Arizona, the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act states that if a landlord “wilfully diminishes services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of electric, gas, water or other essential service to the tenant,” then the tenant may either recover possession of the rental unit or terminate the rental agreement.

In either case, they may also “recover an amount of up to two months’ rent or twice the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater.”

The only time it is acceptable for a landlord to turn off such services is when necessary repairs are taking place. Even so, the renter must have received an advanced warning about this.

Threatening the tenant

Any kind of threat, force, extortion, or menacing actions that compromise a tenant’s safety and right to enjoy the property is considered a wrongful eviction. Additionally, if the tenant the landlord is trying to evict also has volatile behavior, threatening actions against them could prove to be dangerous.

If the tenant feels unsafe in any way, they have the right to seek legal action against the landlord.

wrongful-eviction-examples

What Landlords Need To Know About Wrongful Evictions

To avoid a wrongful eviction lawsuit, landlords must be aware of the following rules and regulations when attempting to evict a tenant:

Providing notice

The landlord cannot immediately evict a tenant without providing written notice to the occupant. Doing so will result in a wrongful eviction. The notice must include the reason for eviction, a notice period, and a deadline to correct the issue (i.e., pay outstanding rent) if relevant.

For example, in California, it is illegal for landlords to forcibly remove tenants before the 30-day notice period is up.

Court proceedings

Tenants who don’t comply with the lease agreement are eligible for a court-ordered eviction filed by the landlord. During this process, the renter will receive an opportunity to explain why they failed to uphold the lease terms.

Only then will a judge decide on the fate of the eviction. A landlord cannot independently evict the tenant - this also equates to a wrongful eviction.

What happens if a landlord loses the eviction case?

A landlord risks losing a lot should they be defeated during a wrongful eviction case. This includes:

Reputation

In the US, eviction cases are highly publicized. This means homeowners who lose wrongful eviction cases will be known to the public and prospective renters. Therefore, future rentals will prove to be more difficult to secure if you have a poor reputation.

Financial losses

Landlords can incur financial losses in multiple ways. Firstly, losing a wrongful eviction lawsuit can result in the homeowner having to pay the tenant’s legal fees. Judges can also serve fines on landlords proven to have acted indecently towards the tenants.

Examples of this include threatening behavior, turning off utilities, etc. In terms of damages to a property made by the tenant, a landlord may recoup some costs by resolving the issue in a small claims court.

Elsewhere, homeowners also face rental income losses during the eviction case - especially if the tenant continues to avoid paying rent. Landlords who depend on their rental income as their main source of earnings can be severely impacted.

Insurance issues

Landlords with a history of losing wrongful eviction lawsuits often struggle to renew or secure insurance. Insurance companies are likely to look at a homeowner’s history and refrain from granting insurance policies to those with a higher risk of landlord-tenant disputes.

wrongful-eviction-table

What Tenants need to know about Wrongful evictions

From a tenant’s perspective, this is everything you need to know:

Valid reasoning

A landlord needs a valid reason to evict a tenant. This includes instances such as non-payment of rent, damage to the rental property, or illegal/criminal activity on the rental property.

Eviction process

A landlord must also follow an eviction process governed by state law and local ordinances. If they don’t follow the legal process, they risk the consequences of breaking the lease agreement.

However, if you’ve always been a model tenant, and your landlord is evicting you for reasons such as wanting to sell the property, some states operate a policy called ‘just cause eviction.’

This requires the homeowner to provide a valid reason for eviction, such as unpaid rent, property damage, etc. If they cannot prove evidence of this, the eviction is invalid. Should they try to continue with the tenant removal anyway, it is considered a wrongful eviction.

Since 2019, California, Oregon, and Washington have all adopted this policy. According to Governing.com, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York have considered it.

How much can a tenant sue a landlord for wrongful eviction?

The amount of a wrongful eviction settlement depends on the state and the damages caused. Examples of damages include the cost of temporary housing, moving expenses, increased rent if the new property is more expensive, and lost wages or job opportunities.

Further claims can be made for any medical costs incurred due to the eviction, or emotional distress.

Seeking legal advice is advised if tenants want to ensure they receive the appropriate compensation amount for the ordeal.

But to give you an idea of some reparation payments, in California, a landlord is liable for triple the rent amount that the tenant would have paid had they not been wrongfully evicted.

In Florida, section 83.67 of the Florida Statutes states that landlords guilty of wrongful evictions are liable to pay the tenant for ‘actual, consequential damages or three month's rent, whichever is greater.’ They may also be required to pay the tenant’s litigation and attorney fees.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Evictions?

According to Collins Dictionary, “If there is a statute of limitations on a legal case such as a crime, people can no longer be accused after a certain period of time has passed.’

Again, this differs from state to state, so you need to check the state in which the action would be filed. What remains the same is the clock starts ticking when you are evicted and removed from the rented property, not when you receive the eviction notice.

In California, the statute of limitations for the breach of a written contract is four years from the date the contract was broken. For property damage, it’s three years from the date the damage occurred. In Tennesse, as per TN Code § 47-2A-506, an “action for default under a lease contract, including breach of warranty or indemnity, must be commenced within four (4) years after the cause of action accrued.”

Do Wrongful Eviction Laws and Rights Differ State by State?

In short, yes - eviction laws and regulations vary widely across the United States. However, it is unanimously agreed upon that evictions, i.e., when the landlord takes matters into their own hands without following proper legal procedures, are illegal.

Here are snippets of information from eight different states so you can gauge how things work in each.

Wrongful evictions in California In California, tenants may be awarded up to $100 per day (with a minimum of $250 per violation) to cover losses like punitive damages and interim housing fees. The tenant may also block the landlord from illegally evicting through the pursuit of a civil court injunction.
Wrongful evictions in Florida In Florida, it is illegal to evict a tenant without providing them fair notice. If a tenant misses a rent payment, landlords can issue them an eviction notice. Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes states that the landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice allowing three (3) days to make the rent payment. If a landlord evicts them before this period, it is considered a wrongful eviction.
Wrongful evictions in Tennessee In Tennessee, a landlord cannot force a tenant to move out without an eviction notice. Failing to give the tenant an eviction notice and avoiding proper eviction processes makes the landlord liable for a forceful eviction conviction.
Wrongful evictions in Texas Under Texas law, tenants are covered by the protection from Landlord Retaliation. Retaliatory evictions are illegal in Texas.
Wrongful evictions in Arizona As per the 2023 Arizona Revised Statutes Title 33 - Property § 33-2148, ‘a landlord shall not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services.’ Threatening or acting upon the threat is also prohibited, and could bring on a wrongful eviction lawsuit.
Wrongful evictions in Georgia In Georgia, even if a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit, only a constable or sheriff is allowed to remove or evict the tenant.
Wrongful evictions in Minnesota As of January 1, 2024, a landlord must issue a 14-day written notice before filing for eviction on the grounds of non-payment of rent. Filing for eviction before this period could see the landlord liable for wrongful eviction.
Wrongful evictions in North Carolina In North Carolina, an eviction case is called “summary ejectment.” To get an eviction, the landlord must file a “Complaint in Summary Ejectment” with the clerk of court. Failure to do so may result in a wrongful eviction lawsuit.

wrongful-eviction-map

To ensure your eviction process is deemed legal, avoid:

  • Not following court proceedings: Landlords cannot evict a tenant without filing a legal eviction notice - the judge makes the final decision on whether the tenant should be removed
  • Taking matters into your own hands: Landlords should not change the locks, cut off the utilities, or use threatening behavior to force a tenant out.

If you’re a landlord and need to file an eviction notice, take a look at our template to help make the complex process that little bit easier.

Official Resources:

Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities - Arizona Law Help

Good Cause - Governing.

Florida Statutes Title VI - FindLaw