Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

What is Harassment?

Harassment occurs when landlords or letting agents interfere with a tenant’s quiet enjoyment of their residential tenancy. This can be anything from too many menacing visits to the property, without reasonable notice, to interfering with essential utilities such as the electricity supply, or just simply bullying and threatening behaviour.

In England & Wales harassment is both a civil and criminal offence and is taken seriously by the law enforcers – the police and the courts. Landlords harass their tenants at their peril: at the risk of a hefty fine, a criminal conviction and in extremis, imprisonment.

Harassment – a Criminal Offence

It has been a criminal offence since 1964 to harass or unlawfully evict an occupier who is legally entitled to be on the premises. In the short-term this can include trespassers (squatters), though landlords can quickly remidy this situation through the legal system.

The 1988 Housing Act extended the offence of harassment, introducing a right to civil action for damages by wrongfully evicted occupiers.

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The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 defines harassment as: any act(s) likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or any members of his or her family, or the persistent withdrawal of services reasonably needed for occupation.

Harassment and Landlords

Never be tempted to coerce or otherwise pressurise tenant/s into leaving no matter how bad they are. Particularly avoid personal confrontations.

If you must visit tenants under strained circumstances try always to take along an independent witness.

It is very difficult to prove a negative, so if you are wrongfully accused of harassment you might find yourself in a very difficult situation if you don’t have a witness.

Landlords – Don’t lose your temper

As a landlord you need to psychologically write off any losses including loss of rent and any damage which may be done. The penalties of being convicted of harassment and unlawful eviction could be far far worse than any financial losses caused by a bad tenant.

Be particularly careful where a tenant has left the property unoccupied for extended periods. Although the agreement may stipulate that the property must not be left unoccupied beyond, say, 14 days, without informing the landlord, you cannot assume that the tenant has left voluntarily.

Never be tempted to change the locks and remove tenants’ possessions in such circumstances. If you have handled the tenancy application correctly you should always have sufficient information to contact the tenant or a relative.

If the tenant appears to have abandoned the property the only safe way to regain legal possession is to obtain a court Possession Order before re-letting.

Landlord Guide – Harassment

  • Whilst in occupation and for the duration of the tenancy, tenants have a “legal estate” in the property and a right to treat the premises as their own, within the terms of the lease.
  • Try not to visit without 48 hours advanced notice, particularly when you need to inspect the premises or for maintenance – telephone or write first and ask for the tenant’s permission.
  • Never enter the tenant’s premises without their knowledge or permission, unless it’s a dire emergency.
  • Encourage tenants to report defects promptly and to allow you access by always dealing with problems as quickly as you can.
  • If things go wrong, never try to use force or other means to gain entry or try to evict a tenant – you must apply for a court possession order giving specific grounds.
  • If relations become strained, and even if rent is not being paid, avoid visiting the premises personally, or take along a witness to avoid being falsely accused of harassment.
  • If you are being denied access for inspections, maintenance or gas safety checks keep a record of your attempts at gaining peaceable entry – you will need proof for the authorities to show your attempts to comply with the law.
  • Where the tenant appears to have abandoned the property always obtain a court possession order before re-letting – see Abandonment link below.
Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
©LandlordZONE® – legal content applies primarily to England and is not a definitive statement of the law, always seek professional advice.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi
    Many times I’m reading helpful info for landlords only.

    It would be great to see and read LEGAL help for tenants when they are being unlawfully harassed – disconnected water,power – to make them move out .
    If it is criminal offence – what are the steps to take the landlord to the court and to the jail in THE best scenario ?

  2. From my own experience (renting in London for 11 years as an immigrant worker), if the landlord disconnects the water or the power, I’d just look for somewhere else to move. I’m in favour of a simple life and sometimes people just get nasty, sometimes for no apparent reason.

    You can probably report the landlord to the police or get legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, but they are understaffed and had huge budget cuts to their services so if you get an appointment there to see someone, you will probably have to wait a long time there. Not sure as I’ve never been. Also google free legal advice in your area, some solicitors offer a free consultation, it usually lasts around 15 minutes but might be better than nothing.

    You could take legal action against the landlord but make sure your contract is legit, you’ll need strong evidence of the harassment and make sure he’s got nothing against you that would stand up in court as if you end up losing, you’ll have to pay court fees and etc, it can be a very expensive experience.

    Normally renters just walk away quietly when a landlord is harassing them as it is easier and simpler. They lose a good tenant and these kinds of landlords will always end up having to rent to scumbag renters so they get what they deserve.

    It’s better to try your best to stay on civilised terms with your landlord as you will probably need their reference where you’re moving next. It is unlawful for them to disconnect the power and any other essential services especially if your contract states they are responsible for ensuring these for you, however, why would you stay there if they want you out so bad? Just consider if it’s really worth it, you could be happier if you’ve moved somewhere else.

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