What is an Ouster?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Ousters can apply to both owners and tenants of a property.
Ousters can apply to both owners and tenants of a property.

In the law, an ouster is a situation in which someone is deprived of the enjoyment of property to which she or he is legally entitled. For example, if a brother and sister buy a house together and one sibling locks the other sibling out, this would be considered an ouster. Ousters constitute wrongful dispossession and the victim of the ouster can take the situation to court for judgment. Remedies from the court can include forcing the ousting party to allow the ousted party back in, and paying damages to compensate the person who was ousted for hardships such as having to do business out of a temporary office.

This term refers specifically to real estate; being denied access to a home or business to which one has legal rights of access is an ouster, as is the maintenance of a hostile environment which makes a space impossible to enjoy. Ousters can apply both to owners and tenants of property. Anyone who is legally allowed to enjoy a property can potentially seek a legal remedy in court if access is restricted.

There may be certain situations in which people are ousted in accordance with legal proceedings, as for example when a victim of domestic violence takes out a restraining order and the abusive partner cannot enter the home. In these cases, however, the person “ousted” has no legal right to enjoyment of the property because the restraining order is in effect. While the net effect may be the same as an ouster, the case is not treated as one.

Roommates, business partners, and other people who share real estate can wind up in situations in which an ouster occurs. Interpersonal conflict sometimes lead to events in which one person attempts to oust the other from a space to which both have rights. People may do things like changing or adding locks to keep each other out or engaging in activities which effectively bar other parties from entering a structure.

The term “ouster” is also used in a political sense, to refer to situations in which people are ejected from positions of power or authority. A coup d'etat, in which a head of state is forcibly removed, is an example of an ouster of this nature. Other political ousters can include displacement of legislators or other officeholders. Like an ouster in the law, a political ouster involves removing someone from his or her rightful place.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments


The cases of ouster can be varied, but interesting. Some of them are pretty straightforward and others are complicated.

I've known of a fair number of cases where a landlord tried to remove a tenant, either into another apartment in the building or to put him out completely for some bogus reason. The landlords must think that their tenants don't understand that a lease is binding as long as the tenant is following the terms.

It's too bad that some tenants aren't aware of their rights, and think they have to follow the landlord's directions because he owns the building. The tenants need to know that they have the right to live and enjoy their apartment or house until the lease expires.


Has anybody here ever had issues with your landlord trying to get you to leave before your lease is up? Legally, they can’t do this, as long as you are not damaging the property or causing problems for other residents.

My landlord came to me one day out of the blue and told me he needed me to move by the end of the month. He wanted to let his niece live in the apartment instead. I told him that we had signed a contract that entitled me to live there for another six months.

He tried to make me believe that he could make me do whatever he wanted since he owned the building. I talked to a lawyer, who told me that this would be considered an ouster, and I could take him to court over it.

I was fully prepared to do so, but all it took was a call from my lawyer to change his mind. I think he knew from the beginning that he had no leg to stand on, and he just thought he could make me believe that he had the power.


@shell4life - Just be glad your brother wasn’t married to this woman. If he had been, it could have been a lot more complicated.

My sister married a man who turned out to be a real jerk. He liked to mess with her mind and always had to have the upper hand. He couldn’t really be termed abusive, but he was manipulative.

One night, he tried to make her leave the house so he could play poker with his friends uninterrupted. She refused, so he picked her up and put her outdoors. He locked the door, and since she didn’t have her keys or her phone, she had to walk next door and call our parents.

She took him to court over the ouster. They ended up divorced and they had to sell the house, because neither of them would let the other have it. It was a big mess, since they were both entitled to live there.


My brother made the mistake of letting his girlfriend move in with him. She was slightly psychotic, and if she found even a tiny reason to be jealous, she grew vindictive.

Once, an old friend who happened to be a girl showed up at his house. He was outside, and he stood around talking to her for about half an hour. During this time, his girlfriend became furious and locked him out of his own house.

He could not get her to unlock the door, so he had to call the cops. This ouster demonstrated the depth of her mental and emotional issues to him, and he finally broke up with her.


My husband had an enemy at work who claimed that my husband’s office was his own. When my husband got hired, they forced the guy to move to a smaller office, and he has rebelled.

Because my husband refused to let him have his office back, the man moved his desk in there, taking up all the remaining space. He also began playing loud music while working, making it impossible for my husband to concentrate or make calls.

The guy had attempted an ouster, but my husband would not budge. He went to the regional manager about it, and he forced the man out of the office. In that guy’s mind, this was the real ouster.


@NathanG - What are the results of a military intervention that takes out a brutal dictator?

The people that ousted him cheer; they claim that liberty has finally come to the region. Do you know what I think really happens? Other thugs move in and the situation is worse than the first, in my opinion.

At least that’s what I’ve noticed in some of the overseas engagements in the Middle East. I’m not a nation builder myself. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.


@MrMoody - The person ousted from the property can always seek legal remedy, regardless of the reason for being ejected from the property.

Whether you call it a real ouster or not is immaterial the way that I see it. There are always lawyers ready to fight for you if you feel that you’ve been wronged.

Some ouster cases are worse than others. The problem with cases involving domestic abuse is that the ousted party may be a bit unstable, in which case they may violently try to force their way into the home and create an unsafe climate for the whole neighborhood.

A neighbor who had been foreclosed on, or was simply the victim of eminent domain, by contrast, would not pose any threat to others.


@SkyWhisperer - Does this ouster definition apply to the thorny, controversial issue of eminent domain?

In this case the government says that they have to build some roads or something like that, so all of the sudden they “own” your property, in exchange for what they deem to be a fair market value payment that in many cases turns out to be a pittance.

This is an interesting scenario. Would such an ouster be legal or illegal? You could always sue, in which case that’s up in the air I suppose. The Supreme Court has ruled that eminent domain is constitutional, so any court battle would be an uphill fight in my opinion.


There are many reasons people can be ousted from their property. Foreclosure can be one of those reasons, and unfortunately, in a down economy this scenario becomes all too prevalent.

People are no longer able to afford their mortgage payment and the bank is forced to repossess their house, leaving them out on the streets.

Sometimes these situations can be worked out; banks can offer a few more months for repayment of mortgages, but in most cases the homeowner is shut out of the home, never to return.

That’s a difficult situation to have to live through. My neighbor got a divorce and they foreclosed on his home. He now lives in an apartment.

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    • Ousters can apply to both owners and tenants of a property.
      By: Mikael Damkier
      Ousters can apply to both owners and tenants of a property.