Landlords risk prosecution for failing to understand harassment legislation warned Sim Sekhon of ‘Legal 4 Landlords’.
Earlier this year, one landlord was charged with harassment and fined £750 when he visited his tenant at the supermarket she worked at to discuss the 12 weeks rent she owed after numerous failed attempts to contact her by letter or by visit to her home.
Under housing legislation it is an offence to seek the tenant outside of the property or premises of which the tenancy relates to. Certain actions conducted by a landlord or third person linked to the landlord that prevents a tenant from living safely and peacefully in their home is classed as harassment and viewed as unlawful.
Obviously, some actions are clearly an act of constructive eviction and tantamount to criminal pursuit, such as:
- Changing locks when tenant is not present;
- Cutting off services to the property, i.e.; water, electricity, gas, etc;
- Causing damage to property which results in dangerous conditions for the occupier;
- Implied threats or physical abuse by landlord or third party.
However, some landlords, when challenged with a troublesome tenant can be breaking laws or be in breach of covenants unaware, this includes;
- Visiting tenants outside of the property the landlord is letting. ie; at the workplace; at friends or family member’s residence;
- Visiting the tenant at their property impromptu or outside working hours; ie; late at night;
- Offering the tenant money to vacate the premises.
Industry spokesman Mr. Sekhon for legal network, ‘Legal 4 Landlords’ advised,
“Landlords acting alone and without the services of a letting agent should be cautious. Regardless of rent arrears, damage, abuse or criminal activity suspected or caused by tenants, it is important landlords adhere to procedures as laid out by the Housing Act (1988) and the Protection from Eviction Act (1977).”
In response to legislation, Mr. Sekhon recommends,
- Landlords should give a minimum 48 hours notice in writing to a tenant of an impending visit;
- Take an independent witness when dealing with strained situations or when dealing with tenants deemed vulnerable;
- Do not let an issue become personal, remain calm and do not react to threats or verbal abuse. If for any reason a landlord becomes fearful, leave the property immediately.
- If a tenant becomes abusive or violent, leave immediately and report the incident to local police, making a note of the log number.
- Keep a journal of dates, actions and responses;
- Keep copies of all correspondence and ensure that the tenant is forwarded copies.
As with most problems, prevention is more conducive than cure. Ensure correct and thorough tenant reference checks, before you hand keys over and when in doubt seek legal advice. If problems persist, legal steps can be taken against tenants. For more information contact Legal 4 Landlords on free-phone 0800 840 7133.