Self-Help Evictions Are Illegal

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on September 19, 2006 under Eviction | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

If, any landlord takes a legal shortcut for evicting an unwanted tenant, by resorting to changing locks or cutting off the water or electric supply, his / her actions would be subject to penalty charges.

Talk to any experienced landlord and he / she will confirm, there are occasional tenants, whose outrageous behaviour compels a landlord into being tempted to circumvent normal legal protections, taking direct and immediate action, in order to protect his / her property.

Take for example, a tenant who repeatedly makes numerous promises to pay rent, however never does so, no doubt an attitude that compels a landlord to seriously consider changing the locks and putting the tenant’s personal possessions out on the street. Or, if a landlord is responsible for paying the utility charges, he / she could be tempted not to pay the bill, hoping lack of water, gas or electricity will hasten an unwanted tenant’s departure.

If, you are tempted to take the law into your own hands, in a bid to force or scare a troublesome tenant off your property: Simply, forget it, just don’t do it! Intimidation, coercion, utility shut-offs or attempts to physically remove a tenant are illegal and dangerous. Anyone resorting to such tactics may find himself / herself slapped with a lawsuit for intrusion, assault, battery, slander and libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful eviction. Therefore, even if the eviction process entails considerable trouble, expense and delay, it is the best and only legal way to do things.

You may think that a tenant’s deplorable conduct excuses the taking of the matter into their own hands. However, non-payment of rent by a tenant, or one who left the property a mess, indulged in verbal abuse, or otherwise acted outrageously will not be a valid defence or hold in court, if you are sued. While, a landlord can file his / her own lawsuit for damages or back rent, he / she will most likely lose the lawsuit for illegally evicting a tenant. As a defendant, this lawsuit will cost far more than going to court for evicting a tenant using legal court procedures.

Every state in America forbids ‘self-help’ evictions and imposes penalty charges for landlords breaking the law. As well, keep in mind, if you change locks, thereby locking a tenant out, or cut-off the heating, freezing him / her freezing, or cut-off or deny use of electricity or water, the tenant can sue for monetary compensation, such as, money spent on temporary housing, the value of food spoiled due to electricity being cut-off, or the cost of an electric heater when the heating was shut off. A tenant can also sue for penalties, such as several months rent, and in some states, a tenant can collect, even as he / she continues to remain on the premises, while, other states entitle him / her to monetary compensation, only.

Even in states, with no legislation against self-help evictions, landlords run a risk of serious practical and legal entanglements, if they throw tenants out on their own. Always, there is great surprise, when a tenant sues them for the loss of personal possessions that were lost, when the landlord removed his / her belongings. It is far better to use a neutral law enforcement officer to enforce a judge’s eviction order and avoid these unpleasantries.

To avoid expensive litigation with unruly tenants, successful landlords must screen prospective tenants and employees, as well as, conduct a background check to verify they do not have past evictions or a criminal past. Visit for tenant screening and background check services.

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