Harassment by landlords

Harassment of a landlord to their tenant is a very serious offence. This could mean the landlord is liable for not only civil proceedings but also criminal proceedings in the forms of penalties.

The law which governs harassment of tenants and evictions by landlords which are not lawful or fair is not very well balanced, and tends to favour tenants rather than landlords. Landlords are able to act in any way which they deem to be reasonable. However, these acts can still be deemed to be harassment by the law.

Harassment includes landlords depriving their tenants of water, gas and electricity. In addition, if landlords threaten tenants to evict them; interfere with their mail or fail to repair tenant’s building then they could be liable. Other forms of harassments include deliberately causing noise to the tenant and looking for the tenant outside the property which is being let to them, such as at their place of work.

Some good and common advice to landlords to battle the law which is not favoured towards them is to never try to remove a tenant from the property, irrelevant of the damage which may have been caused. Landlords should not try being malicious and attempting to evict the tenant, as this kind of behaviour is bound to be unlawful.

If a landlord abides by the tenancy agreement with the tenant but must visit the tenant in the premises but does so according to the contract, it should be done with an independent witness to support the landlord if anything occurs during the visit. The landlord will be able to defend themselves if the tenant makes any claim towards them which may have occurred during this visit.

A situation where a landlord needs to be especially cautious is where it is suspected to them that a tenant could have left the property. This situation is called abandonment. If this happens, it is difficult to tell if the tenant has really abandoned the property without entering. However, the landlord should never try to change the locks or dispose of any possessions which belong to the tenants and are still in the property. This has been ruled under Section 5 (2) of the Housing Act 1988. Under this Section, a landlord can terminate the tenancy in this situation by a court order to obtain possession of the property. If the courts think that the landlord intends to return the tenant to the property after threatening them for not paying their rent as stated in their tenancy agreement, the landlord will be liable under harassment. If the courts think that the intention of the order was to simply evict the tenant permanently then the landlord could also be liable for unlawful eviction.

Prior to any of this action, it is necessary for landlords to serve a tenant with a notice as far in advance as possible in order to avoid any potential claims of harassment which could be served by the tenant. The ideal amount of time is 48 hours prior to the eviction, and the notice is recommended to be written in the negative. This means it is recommended to tell the tenant that the landlord is going to enter the property at a specific time and if this is not convenient to notify the landlord as soon as possible.

It is never recommended to the landlord to ask the tenant for rent or for situations which do not relate to the tenancy of the premises which is the subject of the tenancy agreement, this could also cause the landlord to be liable for harassment.

Harassment of landlords can occur in the most subtle situations. Thus, it is important that landlords protect themselves with notices, court orders and independent witnesses. If any problems do occur, the notices should be kept and be realistic about any losses to them which may occurred. Penalties for harassment could be more abundant than the loss of rent by the tenant.

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May 20, 2012