There are a number of steps in the process of fighting an unlawful eviction. The first one is to educate yourself about the relevant landlord-tenant laws where you live. Next, you should gather any documentation that proves that a wrongful eviction took place. Then you can decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you at any court proceedings. If the court finds that you were unlawfully evicted, then you can usually remain in your residence. In such cases, you can often sue the property owner for damages as well. Otherwise, if the court does not find in your favor, your attorney can assist you with filing an eviction appeal.
There are legitimate reasons for evicting tenants, and a proper way of obtaining an eviction order from the court. Some examples of legal reasons for evicting someone include non-payment of rent, extensive property damage, or breaking any other rules set forth in the lease. A legal eviction usually includes a written document from the landlord, often called a notice to vacate, indicating that he or she intends to take the matter to court. Generally, it is not an official eviction until a judge orders it.
As a potential victim of an unlawful eviction, your first priority might be to research local laws and inform yourself of relevant tenants’ rights. In the U.S., for instance, landlord-tenant laws vary by jurisdiction. Many are determined by state, and sometimes even local, authorities. By contacting a local housing agency, one can usually find information on what constitutes a legal eviction.
An unlawful eviction usually consists of a landlord acting to remove a tenant with no court authority to do so. Some examples of so-called self-help remedies can include changing the door locks, removing a tenant’s personal possessions from the property, and turning off utilities. Another example of an unlawful eviction is retaliatory eviction, wherein the property owner forces a tenant out for exercising a right granted to him or her in the lease agreement. A common example is evicting a renter for complaining that a maintenance request was not completed to his satisfaction or in a timely manner.
If feasible, it might help to hire an eviction attorney to advise you and possibly to represent you in a hearing. You should keep all documents and communications related to the lease agreement. You may have a stronger case if you can show that problems with the landlord existed prior to the eviction — such as important repair requests not being answered, or facing sudden rent increases. For example, a tenant may be granted a stay of execution by the court if the landlord unfairly raised the rent and the tenant continued to pay only the rent amount agreed to in the written contract. In this case, the landlord usually cannot evict the person for non-payment of rent.
Some other remedies are available to victims of unlawful eviction. One can sue for damages or file an eviction appeal with the court. In addition, if you feel that you were a victim of housing discrimination, you can file a formal complaint. In the U.S., for instance, if discrimination is investigated and found by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the tenant can also get free legal representation from a HUD attorney.