Harassment by Landlords - Rights of Tenants in the UK Buy to Let Investment Property Market

by Propertyhawk - Date: 2007-10-11 - Word Count: 893 Share This!

Are you a landlord with tenants that are being a complete pain in the bum! Have they stopped paying rent?

Do they say they will pay up only to give you the landlord the run around? Are they making your pristine residential investment property into a pigsty?! They may well be obnoxious and down right rude into the bargain. In circumstances like this every landlord becomes desperate to get rid off these people and replace them with tenants that deserve your time and attention.

When a landlord has worked hard and invested significant time and effort into providing the tenant with a quality place to live only for the tenant to abuse the landlord's hospitality it is only human to be annoyed. The urge naturally is for a landlord to do what they have to in order to take back what is theirs.

If this involves the landlord getting a little ‘shirty' with the tenant, then that's fair enough isn't it?

The tenants after all are living in the landlords' residential investment property. A residential investment property that the landlord is probably still paying the mortgage for, and therefore a landlord feels that they have every right to ‘encourage' them to leave.

WRONG! The danger is that in this situation the landlord mistakes the fact that; whilst they may occupy the moral high ground, that this will be backed up by the law. If a landlord goes down this route they will end up with a large fine, possibly a prison sentence and to make it worse if the landlord has got the tenant out, they could even be allowed by the courts to return to the landlord's property! Worse still, this could have been exactly what the tenant was aiming to achieve all along and that you the landlord have fallen right into the tenants' trap. We explain.

Landlord Harassment

What a landlord needs to guard against is being provoked by circumstances and their tenants into what the law interprets as harassment. Since the late 1970's the law has been strongly stacked against the landlord acting in any way to ‘pressurise' the tenant to leave. Added to this is the fact that the courts very often will side with the tenants if there are any doubts over the facts. Actions by a landlord that constitute an act of harassment are as follows:

* cutting off water, gas, or electricity
* threatening tenants with eviction
* interfering with tenant's mail
* long-term failure to do repairs
* deliberate noise pollution
* seeking the tenant outside the scope of the premises you are letting i.e. going to their workplace.

The fact is that harassment is a serious offence and carries civil as well as criminal penalties. What is more that there are some ‘professional tenants' who know how to use their legal rights against landlords. They will deliberately provoke a landlord into committing an illegal act just so that they can use the law to their advantage.

Advice to landlords

Landlords should never coerce a tenant into leaving no matter how bad they are. If a landlord proposes to do something to their tenant thinking "that will get rid of them", if they have not got a legal reason for their actions, they are probably acting unlawfully.

If a landlord must visit their tenant under strained circumstances they should always try to take along an independent witness. In this way the landlord will be in a position to defend them self from spurious claim made by the tenant.

A landlord needs to be particularly careful where they think a tenant has left the property or so called Abandonment. Landlords should never be tempted to change the locks and remove tenants' possessions in such circumstances even if they are convinced that the tenant has done a ‘runner'. This is because by virtue of S5 (2) of the Housing Act 1988 a tenancy can only be brought to an end by the landlord obtaining a Court order for possession or by a surrender or similar act by the tenant. If the courts are convinced that the landlord intended to re-instate the tenant after a discussion about rent arrears, it is likely the landlord will be prosecuted for Harassment; if they believe the intention was the permanent eviction of the tenant then the landlord will be prosecuted for unlawful eviction

Landlords should always give the tenant as much notice a possible if they are to visit the property to avoid any potential claims of harassment. Landlords should make this at least 48 hours ideally unless there is an emergency. In wording the notice it is always a good idea for a landlord to couch the notification in the negative. That is to say " I will be visiting the residential investment property at 1pm on Thursday 6 June. If this is not convenient please notify me ASAP."

A landlord should never approach a tenant for rent or matters relating to a potential conflict involving the tenancy outside the scope of the premises they are letting as this could constitute harassment.

If problems a rise a landlord should remember to keep dated notes about their actions and the tenants response in case the matter does go to court and the tenant tries to claim harassment.

A landlord needs to be realistic about losses including loss of rent. This is because the financial penalties of being convicted for harassment could be far worse.

http://www.propertyhawk.co.uk - The Landlords Homepage - FREE Tenancy Agreements

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