Consequences of Illegal Evictions

Find your state's laws on illegal "self-help" evictions.

Landlords in every state must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant, and must not take the law into their own hands. Examples of illegal "self-help" evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant's belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Many states specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. Some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees (if the tenant successfully sues the landlord) and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.

Read your state statute for the specific rules in your state. The citation is provided here, and you can visit the Library of Congress's legal research site for links to state statutes.

Consequences of Self-Help Evictions

State

Amount Tenant Can Sue For

Statute Provides for Tenant's Court Costs & Attorneys' Fees

Statute Gives Tenant the Right to Stay

Statute or Legal Authority

Alabama

Three months' rent or actual damages, whichever is greater. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return entire security deposit and all unearned prepaid rent.

Yes

Yes

Ala. Code § 35-9A-407

Alaska

One and one-half times the actual damages. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return all prepaid rent and security deposits. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

Yes

Alaska Stat. §§ 34.03.210; 34.03.350

Arizona

Two months' rent or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return all security deposit and prepaid rent.

Yes

Yes

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 33-1364(2)(D); 33-1367

Arkansas

Self-help evictions are not allowed, but it's up to the court to determine damages.

N/A

N/A

Gorman v. Ratliff, 712 S.W. 2d 888 (1986)

California

Actual damages plus $100 per day of violation ($250 minimum). Tenant may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.

Yes

Yes

Cal. Civ. Code § 789.3

Colorado

Tenant may sue for any damages.

No

No

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-510

Connecticut

Double actual damages. Landlord may also be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.

Yes

Yes

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 47a-43, 47a-46, 53a-214

Delaware

Triple damages or three times per diem rent for time excluded, whichever is greater. Tenant may recover court costs, but not attorneys' fees.

Yes

Yes

Del. Code Ann. tit. 25, § 5313

District of

Columbia

Actual and punitive damages.

N/A

N/A

Mendes v. Johnson, 389 A.2d 781 (D.C. 1978)

Florida

Actual damages or three months' rent, whichever is greater.

Yes

No

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.67

Georgia

Landlord may not resort to self-help evictions. Damages are determined by the court.

N/A

N/A

Forrest v. Peacock, 363 S.E. 2d 581 (1987), reversed on other grounds, 368 S.E.2d 519 (1988)

Hawaii

Two months' rent or free occupancy for two months (tenant must have been excluded "overnight"). Court may order landlord to stop illegal conduct.

Yes

Yes

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-63(c)

Idaho

Three times the amount of actual damages.

Yes

N/A

Schlegel v. Hansen, 570 P.2d 292 (Idaho Sup. Ct. 1977); Riverside Dev. Co. v. Ritchie, 650 P.2d 657 (Idaho Sup. Ct. 1982); Idaho Code Ann. §§ 6-317 and 6-324

Illinois

One month's rent for every month without utility service (partial months prorated), plus consequential damages. If termination resulted from deliberate or reckless indifference or disregard for tenant's rights, or bad faith, court may award each tenant $300 or (when multiple tenants have been affected), the sum of $5,000 divided by the number of affected tenants, whichever is less.

No

Yes

735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. §§ 1.4, 2.1; U.S. v. White, 541 F.Supp. 1181 (N.D. Ill. 1982) (held that a tenant who has been subject to a self-help eviction remains entitled to possession of the premises).

Indiana

Statute doesn't specify damages.

No

No

Ind. Code Ann. § 32-31-5-6

Iowa

Actual damages, plus punitive damages up to twice the monthly rent and attorneys' fees. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return all prepaid rent and security deposits.

Yes

Yes

Iowa Code § 562A.26

Kansas

Actual damages or one and one-half months' rent, whichever is greater. If the rental agreement is terminated, the tenant is entitled to the return of security deposit.

No

Yes

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 58-2563

Kentucky

Three months' rent. Tenant may also recover reasonable attorneys' fees. If tenancy is terminated, the landlord must return prepaid rent.

Yes

Yes

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 383.655

Louisiana

Landlord may not resort to self-help evictions. Damages are determined by the court.

N/A

N/A

Weber v. McMillan, 285 So.2d 349 (1973)

Maine

Actual damages or $250, whichever is greater. The court may award costs and fees to landlord if it finds that the tenant brought a frivolous court lawsuit or one intended to harass.

Yes

No

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 6014

Maryland

Actual damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

Yes

No

Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.], § 8-216

Massachusetts

Three months' rent or three times the actual damages.

Yes

Yes

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 15F

Michigan

Up to three times actual damages or $200, whichever is greater.

No

Yes

Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2918

Minnesota

Treble damages or $500, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorneys' fees. Landlord might also be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Yes

Yes

Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 504B.225; 504B.231; 504B.375

Mississippi

Landlord may not resort to self-help evictions unless lease gives landlord the right to remove the tenant and take position of the premises without notice.

N/A

N/A

Bender v. North Meridian Mobile Home Park, 636 So.2d 385 (Miss. Sup. Ct. 1994)

Missouri

Landlord may not resort to self-help evictions. Damages are determined by the court.

N/A

N/A

Steinke v. Leight, 235 S.W.2d 115 (1950); Mo. Stat. Ann § 441.233

Montana

Three months' rent or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater, along with all security deposits and prepaid rent recoverable.

Yes

Yes

Mont. Code Ann. §§ 70-24-411; 70-24-442

Nebraska

Up to three months' rent and reasonable attorneys' fees. If tenancy is terminated landlord shall return all recoverable security deposit and prepaid rent.

Yes

Yes

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1430

Nevada

Up to $2,500 or actual damages, whichever is greater, or both. If tenant elects to terminate rental agreement or lease, landlord must return entire security deposit and any prepaid rent. Tenant might be entitled to court costs.

Yes

Yes

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 118A.390

New Hampshire

Actual damages or $1,000, whichever is greater; if court finds that landlord knowingly or willingly broke the law, two to three times this amount. (Amount might also vary depending on the situation.) Each day that a violation continues is a separate violation. Court may order a tenant who brings a frivolous suit or one intended to harass to pay landlord's costs and fees.

Yes

Yes

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 540-A:3, 540-A:4, 358-A:10

New Jersey

Self-help is prohibited, and landlord who engages in self-help is a "disorderly person," a criminal offense that subjects the landlord to up to six months in jail.

No

No

N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:39-1, 2C:43-8

New Mexico

A prorated share of the rent for each day of violation, actual damages, and civil penalty of twice the monthly rent.

Yes

Yes

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 47-8-36

New York

Three times the actual damages. Violations are misdemeanors, and landlords are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 to up to $10,000.

No

Yes

N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. Law §§ 768, 853

North Carolina

Actual damages.

No

Yes

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-25.9

North Dakota

Triple damages.

No

No

N.D. Cent. Code § 32-03-29

Ohio

Actual damages. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

No

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 5321.15

Oklahoma

Twice the average monthly rental or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater.

No

Yes

Okla. Stat. tit. 41, § 123

Oregon

Two months' rent or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater.

No

Yes

Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.375

Pennsylvania

Self-help evictions are not allowed, but no specific penalties are provided (it's up to the court to determine damages).

N/A

N/A

Wofford v. Vavreck, 22 Pa. D. & C.3d 444 (1981); Kuriger v. Cramer, 498 A.2d 1331 (1985)

Rhode Island

Three months' rent or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

Yes

R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-34

South Carolina

Three months' rent or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

Yes

S.C. Code Ann. § 27-40-660

South Dakota

Two months' rent. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return entire security deposit.

No

Yes

S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 43-32-6

Tennessee

Actual and punitive damages. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return entire security deposit. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

Yes

Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-504

Texas

A civil penalty of one month's rent plus $1,000, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorneys' fees.

Yes

Yes

Tex. Prop. Code §§ 92.008, 92.0081, 92.009

Utah

Self-help evictions are not allowed, but no specific penalties are provided.

No

No

Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-814

Vermont

Unspecified damages, plus court costs and attorneys' fees. Court may award costs and attorneys' fees to landlord if the court finds that the tenant brought a frivolous lawsuit or one intended to harass.

Yes

Yes

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4463, 4464

Virginia

Actual damages. Tenant can sue for attorneys' fees but not court costs.

Yes

Yes

Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1243

Washington

Actual damages. For utility shut-offs only, actual damages and up to $100 per day of no service. Court may award costs and fees to the prevailing party.

Yes

Yes

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 59.18.290, 59.18.300

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Self-help evictions are prohibited. The court will determine damages.

No

No

Wis. Adm. Code ATCP § 134.09(7)

Wyoming

Updated: December 10, 2020

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