Every state has statutes regarding the landlord-tenant relationship that are in place to not only protect a landlord but to also protect a tenant's rights under the Fifth Amendment. If a landlord takes actions considered unlawful in his/her attempt to evict a tenant, regardless of whether or not the tenant has violated the lease by not paying rent or otherwise, the landlord can face civil and/or criminal penalties.
Here is a list of actions a landlord or anyone acting on behalf of the landlord is not permitted take without a court order (this is not a complete list and a landlord would be well advised to seek legal advice prior to taking any action regarding the tenant)
1. False representations - any claim by the landlord must be factual.
2. Forcibly enter the premises.
3. Harass the tenant or others in possession. A landlord, or anyone acting on the landlord's behalf, cannot verbally or physically harass or threaten the tenant.
4. Remove the tenant's belongings from the leased premises.
5. Change the locks.
6. Turn off utilities.
7. Refuse to make repairs that threaten the health and safety of the tenant.
8. Otherwise force the tenant to move out without a court order.
The following would not be illegal, however, the following could severely affect a landlord's rights in the eviction process:
1. Accepting Payment(s) From Tenant - any money taken by the landlord, even as little as $1, can be construed as receipt of rent. If the court is aware of monies accepted by the landlord after the notice for eviction is served upon the tenant, the court may dismiss all actions regarding the eviction and require the landlord to start the eviction procedure over, including serving an eviction notice prior to petitioning the court.
For information regarding retaliation against a tenant see Prohibited Retaliatory Acts.