What is Landlord Harassment?
Landlord harassment of tenants usually occurs when a landlord feels they cannot wait for the correct eviction process. They may want to urgently sell the property.
This may be due to financial problems or mortgage arrears. Due to COVID-19 and the delayed eviction process, some landlords attempt to harass the renter to leave voluntarily.
Sometimes can’t just move; they might have children, disability or they require council housing.
If a tenant needs council housing, the local authority will insist the tenant remain in the property. The landlord follows the correct eviction procedure.
A landlord who needs to obtain possession of their property quickly can seek legal advice from Landlord Advice UK, who are the experts in this area of law.
Most cases of landlord Harassment are due to tenant rent arrears where the tenant fails to keep up with the rent payment. The landlord may need to pay the mortgage, and the tenant has defaulted. Rather than the tenant talks to the landlord, some will hide.
This, in some cases, make the landlord do things they must not. In rare cases, landlords have cut off gas, water, or electric supply.
This type of behaviour is simply wrong. It is best for the renter and landlord to have a frank, civilised open conversation. Illegal eviction of tenants carries heavy damages and substantial legal fees that a landlord may be asked to pay.
Legal procedures and processes must be followed and unlawful eviction must be avoided at all cost.
My landlord is harassing me what can I do?
You can take some simple steps to deal with the situation depending on how bad your relationship is with your landlord. The act of Harassment is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as:
“Acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property or persistent withdrawal of services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises”.
Harassment doesn’t have to be conducted by landlords directly; it can be a third party. It could be a letting agency, builder, or family member. A renter has a legal right to quiet enjoyment of their home.
Simply put, anything that results as consequences of the tenant feeling intimidated, threatened and interfered with the quality of their living conditions may be deemed as a criminal offence.
Write a letter to your landlord asking for the Harassment to stop. Send the letter with proof of mailing and keep a copy of the letter. If you are a victim of “sex for rent” then you should immediately report the matter to the police or the local authority.
Document the Incident: The renter should document any alleged incidents that occur, including the date, time, and nature of the Harassment. The tenant should keep any evidence of the Harassment, including a voicemail, text message, email, letter, photo, or video that captures the incident.
Acts of landlord harassment
So, what type of actions can be deemed to be landlord harassment of a tenant. Examples of landlord harassment are:
- To stop services like electricity, water, heating, or failure to pay bills, so they are cut off.
- Changing the locks or withholding keys without the tenant’s agreement.
- Interfering with basic services regarding the property like mail and deliveries of goods.
- Anti-social behaviour by the landlord or their agent (threats and physical violence)
- Insulting, racist, derogatory language and or rude behaviour.
- Causing damage to the let property to disrupt the tenant’s daily life.
- Passive aggression expressed in deprivation of previously available benefits (parking space, maintenance of common areas)
- Persistently offering the occupier money to leave.
- Exceptionally high rent increase
- Sexual harassment.
- Forcing a renter to sign an agreement to deprive them of their legal rights.
- Persistent phone calls or emails to pressure you to leave the property visits to the property.
- Entering the let property when the occupier is not there or without tenants’ consent.
- Preventing the renter from having guests or causing a nuisance to them when they do.
- Moving other tenants in the let property who cause a nuisance with ill intent.
- Discrimination because of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexuality.
To prove Harassment in the court, it is not merely sufficient to show that the act was committed.
The renter is required to prove both the act and the intention or the reasonable cause to believe that is the case.
Tenants harassing landlord
Although most cases are against the landlord, however, they too are subject to Harassment from tenants too. This often occurs when a close (not sexual) relationship is created between both parties.
When the relationship falters or blooms various forms of harassment can occur. Advice to landlords is to keep your relationship with the renter professional, never over step this golden rule.
These can be persistently requesting improvements to the let property, rent reduction demands for a renewal of the rental agreement, and attempts to sell services or trade.
Landlords may be able to take legal action by serving a proper notice like a section 8 notice ground 12 or action under common law.
Tenants have no grounds to interfere with the landlord’s peace, and they also have no grounds to interfere with any other tenants that you may have in the vicinity of the property from where you are trying to evict the tenant (for instance, if you had multiple tenancies running in a block of flats)
Action against landlords
Keep a diary and collect evidence of all your landlord’s actions against you (for example, photographs, letters etc.). This will be especially useful if you need to take your landlord to court later.
Contact the housing department at your local council or the police – they can take action.
You can take steps to complain if your problem isn’t solved by speaking to or emailing your landlord.
Action against tenants
If a landlord requires their property back, be it due to rent arrears or they wish to sell the property, they must follow the correction eviction procedure and obtain possession through the county court.
If the tenant does have rent arrears, you can claim possession and rent arrears under the section 8 possession claim process. Check the tenancy agreement you may be able to cite other grounds which the tenant has breached. Some breaches of the tenancy agreement can trigger ground 12 under the section 8 notice.
Harassment landlord-tenant laws
Harassment of a tenant is a civil and a criminal wrong. It carries heavy damages, and a landlord could end up paying several thousands of pounds in legal fees too.
Law exists which prevents landlords or anyone acting at the behest of the landlord from unlawfully evicting a tenant or harassing them to give up possession of their home.
Where a tenant has been harassed and an illegal eviction has taken place a tenants lawyer can apply for an urgent court order where the tenant has to be re-instated back into their home. A court will set a date for the matter to progress to deal with damages and legal fees after the tenant has been re-instated.
Not to comply with the court order where an illegal eviction has taken place means the person who has been served the order (Landlord or agent) may be in contempt of court.
This is how it goes:
- Renter claims unlawful eviction
- Renter obtains legal representation
- The lawyer prepares an urgent application to the court usually heard the same day.
- The judge makes an order demanding the landlord give keys to the property to the renter
- The order is physically served on the landlord and or agent
- A date is already set in the court order for the matter to be heard.
- A landlord not complying with the order could be held contempt of court and the court could consider jail as an option
Alternatively, this is one of the scenarios:
The renter comes up with a bright idea, given that the landlord has served a notice to evict that they can now get a council house.
They hand the keys back to the owner or agent for the rented property. The renter packs their bags and toddles off to the council office. They claim they are now homeless and claim they know their rights and want to be housed by the council.
They have a rude awakening when the council tells them they are intentionally homeless under the housing act. They have no obligation to house them. They are told kindly to clear off.
The renter is informed that had they stayed in the rental property and let the landlord go through the court eviction process, the council would have considered the renter for housing.
The renter goes back to the rental property, makes a forced entry and takes unlawful possession. At some stage, the agent or landlord finds out, and the renter then claims harassment and illegal eviction.
I have dealt with many cases where renters have done this so it is not unusual.
Tenant wrongly claiming Harassment
If your tenants accuse you of Harassment which is common, especially when you ask for the rent or access to discharge your duty gas checks etc.
You should take the following steps:
- Take detailed notes of all your actions, date, time.
- Take, keep photographs, voice recording, video evidence whenever possible.
- Take a note of witnesses, name contact details if you are subjected to ill-treatment.
- Instruct a lawyer to take the necessary steps to evict the tenant and deal with the case.
Neighbour harassing owner or tenant
The tenant, landlord or property owner does not have to put up with persecution or Harassing neighbours.
There is no justification for the perpetrator to harass you, and you are protected by the law in this regard. Some cases of Harassment arise due to a dispute between neighbours, which escalate out of control if unchecked.
The police generally take harassment issues seriously. They will be there to support you, although the level will vary depending upon the severity of the Harassment.
What eviction is illegal
An eviction that is not conducted by using the correct court possession claim procedure is likely to be unlawful. The legal process to evict a tenant for residential property is:
- The landlord serves a valid proper notice eviction notice like a section 8 or 21.
- The landlord waits for the two (under COVID-19 this may vary) months on the notice to expire.
- The court issues a possession order and gives the tenant a date by which they must give up vacant possession of the property.
- The landlord must wait for the date on the possession order to expire.
- The landlord uses court bailiffs to execute the order to evict the tenant.
- Court bailiffs will give the renter reasonable advance notice to the date of the physical eviction
Where to go for help
Tenants and landlords can obtain free legal advice from the Citizen advice bureau. Landlords can obtain free legal advice from Landlord Advice UK, and tenants have the option to legal advice through the shelter as an alternative.
How do I report Harassment or illegal eviction?
Depending on the severity of the problem, you can report it to the police or the council. However, you must first write to the landlord expressing your feeling and telling what you would like them to do or not to do.
For unlawful eviction, as the matter is urgent you can contact Shelter or your local council.
If this fails to yield results, you can contact a solicitor for free legal advice or contact Shelter, who can also help you free of charge.
My tenant has broken back into my property what can I do?
If the renter gave you the keys back and or and crucially notice to vacate by letter or email. Then the renter has no right to take possession of your property and it is a simple case of trespass. Trespassers in residential property is a police matter, however, they very rarely will help the property owner.
If the tenant is unwilling to move out and the police are not helping then you have no choice but to issue a claim for possession under the trespass process. Lawyers who are not familiar with trespass must note and adhere to the court’s practice directions when issuing a trespass claim.
The common mistake made is the mode the claim is served on the defendant(s).
What are the claims and damages if a tenant sues their landlord for Harassment?
Each case is different; however, the legal fees a landlord may have to pay to defend any case against them and can run into several thousand. Court action must be the last resort, and both parties should try to settle the matter amicably.
How to deal with Harassment from landlords or agents?
Follow the above steps. The starting point must be to write to the landlord or the landlord’s agent.
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Author: Simon Hampton [email protected]
Date: 3rd of June 2021
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