Harassment is a criminal offence which can lead to court action and imprisonment. But what is classed as landlord harassment, how can they prevent claims of harassment, and what can tenants do to protect themselves?
- What counts as landlord harassment?
- Where to report harassment
- How to prevent claims of harassment
- Protecting yourself as a landlord
Landlord harassment is anything a landlord does that prevents tenants from living peacefully in their homes. Examples can include:
- Changing the locks without tenants’ knowledge.
- Withholding keys in spite of tenants’ needs.
- Withdrawal of services that tenants rely on, such as water or electricity supply.
- Refusing to carry out repairs.
- Threatening or violent behaviour.
- Discrimination based on gender, race, religion, age or disability.
The laws around harassment are set out in three different acts of parliament, but instances of harassment can fall under more than one act. These different acts are:
- Protection of Harassment Act 1997
- Protection from Eviction Act 1977
- Administration of Justice Act 1970
Can eviction ever be considered landlord harassment?
Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, harassment doesn’t have to be forcing tenants to leave the property. For example, if a landlord withheld access to communal areas, this would also count as unlawful eviction and harassment.
Don’t landlords have a right to access their property?
As a landlord, you have the ‘right of reasonable access’, but this doesn’t mean you can turn up unannounced.
If you do need to access your property, give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice, in writing. You also need to have a genuine reason for your visit, for example to carry out repairs or a house inspection.
Unless it is a genuine emergency, trying to enter the property without your tenant’s knowledge is likely to be considered harassment.
If you’re a tenant, you can report landlord harassment to your local council. Most local authorities will have a team who can advise and provide practical help and even act as a mediator between you and your landlord. Organisations such as Citizens Advice and Shelter can also help.
If you report your landlord, you’ll need evidence of continued harassment. Examples of evidence can include:
Communication between you and your landlord
This could be threatening or demanding emails, texts, or messages through social media. If your landlord has tried pressuring you into leaving by offering you bribes this also counts as harassment.
Logging incidents in a diary
It’s a good idea to keep a record of incidents. For instance, dates and times your landlord has tried to enter the property without notice, or evidence of them having been in your home without permission.
Statements from witnesses
If there have been any witnesses to instances of harassment, ask if they’d be willing to provide a statement. Third-party reports can be valuable in helping you build a case against your landlord.
Landlords: How to prevent claims of harassment
It’s easy for situations to be misinterpreted but you can minimise the risk of this happening by considering these points:
- If you need to visit the property, always give at least 24 hours’ notice, in writing, specifying the reason for the visit.
- Never enter the property without prior permission (unless it’s an emergency).
- Pre-arranged visits should be at a time that suits both you and your tenant.
- Ensure repair work is timely and if it can’t be carried out within a reasonable time, let your tenant know why.
- If you have a difficult relationship with your tenant and need to inspect the property or carry out repairs, take along an independent third party.
- If you suspect a situation may escalate keep a record of communication along with any other evidence.
A detailed tenancy agreement that clearly sets out the terms and conditions of the lease can help prevent misunderstanding and reduce the risk of landlords being accused of harassment.
If you’re a landlord it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the main points of the Housing Act 1988 . This was introduced to make tenancies fair and reasonable for both tenants and landlords.
Protecting yourself and your assets
As a landlord, you’ll be familiar with your legal responsibilities towards your tenants, but it’s crucial that your own assets are protected too.
At Alan Boswell Group, we offer a wide range of tailored insurance services to meet your specific needs. To find out more about how we can help, head to our landlord insurance hub or speak to a member of our team on 01603 216399.