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 Tenants Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees


Statute Gives Tenant the Right to Stay


Statute or Legal Authority

Alabama

Self-help evictions are not allowed, but no specific penalties are provided (judge decides on consequences).

N/A

N/A

Ala. Code § 35-9A-427

Alaska

One and one-half times the actual damages. If tenant elects to terminate the lease, landlord must return entire security deposit.

No

Yes

Alaska Stat. § 34.03.210

Arizona

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

No

Yes

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 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.

N/A

N/A

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.

No

No

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

Florida

Actual damages or three months’ rent, which- ever 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

Illinois

Indiana

Statute doesn’t specify damages.

N/A

N/A

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 entire security deposit.

Yes

Yes

Iowa Code § 562A.26

Kansas

Actual damages or one and one-half months’

rent, whichever is greater.

No

Yes

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 58-2563

Kentucky

Three months’ 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

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

N/A

N/A

In re Promower, Inc., v. Scuderi, et al., 56 B.R. 619 (U.S. Bankruptcy Court, D. Maryland, 1986)

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

Statute doesn’t specify damages.

Yes

Yes

Minn. Stat. § 504B.375

Mississippi

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.

Yes

Yes

Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-411

Nebraska

Up to three months’ 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.

No

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. 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 in 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.

N/A

N/A

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.

No

No

N.Y. Real Prop. Acts Law § 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.

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.

Yes

Yes

R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-34

South Carolina

Three months’ rent or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater.

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.

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 attorney’s fees.

Yes

Yes

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

Utah

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

No

No

Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-814

Vermont

Unspecified damages. Court may award costs and 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.

Yes

Yes

Va. Code Ann. §§ 55-248.26, 55-225.2

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. § 59.18.300

West Virginia

Wisconsin

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

N/A

N/A

Wis. Adm. Code ATCP § 134.09(7)

Wyoming

Updated: November 2017

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