It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant without the court process. If a landlord evicts a tenant without the court process, tenants may be able to recover triple the costs associated with the illegal eviction. Through a separate court process, the tenant may be able to bring a claim for property losses and other damages they sustained as a result of the illegal eviction.
If the landlord attempts an illegal eviction by changing the locks, for instance, it is important for the tenant to keep careful records of all their expenses which can serve as evidence of the damages they sustained as a result of the unlawful eviction. A legal eviction can only be accomplished by a valid court order and the tenant must be provided with written notice of the eviction.
If a landlord attempts illegal eviction tactics such as changing the locks, removing the door, cut off essential services or other methods, it is important to establish a police record and also record witness accounts of the actions the landlord has taken such as those of neighbors which may be able to serve as witnesses. It is also important for the tenant to keep a copy of the tenant's lease in a safe place and should be able to access it in the event of an illegal eviction process initiated by the landlord.
As is always true when landlord-tenant disputes arise, it is helpful for tenants to know their rights and how to exercise those rights when necessary. Understanding what their landlord can and cannot do and how to enforce their rights can provide important protections for tenants against the unlawful or capricious actions of landlords.