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 set out in the various Housing and Rent Acts as detailed above.