It sometimes happens that relationships between a landlord and tenant become strained. Tenants renting a property from a private landlord are, however, protected against harassment and illegal eviction. If a landlord’s actions amount to harassment or illegal eviction, they may be committing a serious criminal and civil offence and may be prosecuted. A tenant may also be able to claim damages through the civil court.
What is Harassment?
The law makes it an offence to:
- Do acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of a tenant or anyone living with them
- Withdrawal of services which the tenant needs to live in the property as a home.
Harassment can take many forms and can include:
- Threats of physical violence
- Cutting off services such as gas, electricity and water
- Preventing access to shared facilities i.e. kitchen or bathroom
- Entering the property without permission
- Withholding keys
The information above relates to harassment in a housing / tenancy situation. There are, however, many forms of harassment when a person’s unwanted conduct has the purpose or effect of:
- Violating that other's dignity, or
- Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other.
Harassment may involve repeated forms of unwanted behaviour but a one-off incident can also amount to harassment. Acts of harassment may be unlawful. Harassment on grounds of sex, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age may amount to unlawful discrimination. Harassment may also breach other legislation and may in some circumstances be a criminal offence e.g. under the provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Complaints of these nature should be reported to the Police.
What is Illegal Eviction?
Landlord’s right to get a property back from a tenant can normally only be enforced through the courts. To force a tenant out of the property by any means other than with a court order could be illegal eviction, which is a criminal and civil offence. Landlords cannot change the locks or force tenants out by other means.