The number of people turning to Citizens Advice for help with illegal evictions has risen by almost 50% in the last year, new figures published by the charity reveal.

In the 12 months up to March 2016, 2,087 people asked for help from the charity after being threatened with illegal eviction, up 47% from 1,415 the previous year.

Tenants report being threatened with eviction from private landlords for missing a single rent payment, locks being changed without warning and even personal belongings seized by landlords.

It is a criminal offence for landlords to remove tenants without following the correct procedures. To evict tenants legally, a private landlord will usually have to serve them notice, then get a possession order followed by a bailiff’s warrant from a court.

Citizens advice has welcomed the creation of a new database of landlords who have illegally evicted tenants, which will be available to local authorities in England from October 2017.

However, the charity is calling for the database to also be made available to tenants, to help them avoid cowboy landlords. This could be made possible through ‘The Renters’ Rights Bill’, which is currently passing through parliament and would give tenants the right to find out if their landlord is on the database.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government is introducing a new license and registration system, which will include a database of landlords which tenants can access to find out if a landlord has a valid licence and if their property is registered.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Landlords who break the law shouldn’t be able to hide.

“It’s a crime to throw people out of their homes without a court order, but more and more people are coming to Citizens Advice with this problem.

“The new database is a positive step which will help councils in England keep track of landlords who’ve broken the law.

“But unless tenants can check who’s on it, it will be continue to be hard for them to know which landlords to avoid. It’s crucial tenants are given access to this list.”