In an eviction, a landlord forces his tenant to vacate the property. In many places, evictions are regulated by law, and a legal eviction is one in which the legal procedures set out by law are followed. In the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries, only a judge can order a legal eviction, and in some cases, only a law enforcement officer can physically enforce the eviction by removing the tenant and his belongings from the premises.
The legal arrangement between a landlord and tenant is typically called a lease, and it is generally considered to be a binding contract between the parties. In exchange for the tenant's rent payments and agreement to care for the property and obey the landlord's reasonable rules, the landlord gives the use of the property over to the tenant for the duration of the lease. A landlord who wants a tenant to move out generally has few legal choices: He must either wait until the lease runs out, negotiate a voluntarily move-out with the tenant, or must prove in court that he has grounds to evict the tenant. Attempting to force the tenant out through what is known as a "constructive eviction," essentially making the rental unit unlivable so the tenant chooses to move, is considered in many places to be an illegal eviction.
Eviction rights are typically defined in law, which can vary considerably from place to place. Within the United States, for example, what constitutes a legal eviction is established by state, and sometimes local, law. Eviction law may require a landlord to give a tenant advance notice of his plans to evict the tenant before the landlord can file an eviction in court. The law may also require that a landlord have eviction papers served to a tenant by a sheriff or process server before a court hearing is held. If a landlord decides to take the law into his own hands and attempts to remove or lock-out a tenant without due process, a tenant might have the right to sue the landlord for wrongful eviction.
To ensure a legal eviction, landlords would do well to learn the pertinent laws in their jurisdiction and seek good legal advice. Landlords should also understand the difference between different types of evictions, as there can be significant legal variations between residential and commercial evictions. On the tenant's side, knowing the difference between a legal and illegal eviction can prevent bullying by an unscrupulous landlord. If a tenant knows the process for a legal eviction, the tenant may be able to better take control of the situation, perhaps by seeking eviction mediation and thus being able to avoid the legal consequences of having an eviction on his record.