How can I stop my landlord harassing me?

My landlord has become increasingly threatening and he's really upsetting me. He started by phoning me up and harassing me to leave the property. He even went as far as to threaten to move in four men even if my baby and I were still living there. He then started turning up unannounced. I don't know what do. Is there anything I can do about the way he's been behaving?

It’s likely that you’re an assured shorthold tenant because you rent privately and your landlord lives elsewhere. If this is the case, you have the right to be safe in your home. One of your rights is to live in your home peacefully and it’s unlawful for the landlord to harass you or try to evict you illegally.

Harassment can include anything done by a landlord, or someone linked to them, which stops you living safely and quietly in your home. Don’t assume that the harassment has to be obvious or intentional before you can do anything. It can involve both subtle and direct acts such as:

  • Abusing you because of your sex, race or sexuality;
  • Stopping you getting services such as hot water or heating;
  • Constant visits from your landlord, late at night or without warning;
  • Offering you money to leave or threatening you;
  • Allowing the property to get into such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous to stay;
  • Forcing you to sign agreements that reduce your rights.

Landlords have to follow strict rules to legally evict you. The rules depend on what type of private tenancy you have. Illegal eviction is when the landlord tries to evict you without following the correct legal procedures. This could include:

  • Locks being changed when you are out;
  • Being physically thrown out;
  • Stopping you from getting into your home.

You also have protection under law because it is an offence to harass or illegally evict you. If your landlord asking you to leave and you don’t want to it’s really important you seek further advice from a service such as a local Housing Aid Centre or your local Citizens Advice Bureau(CAB).

If you are being harassed or threatened with illegal eviction there are practical steps that you could take, such as:

  • Keeping a diary, notes and photographs detailing all events that take place;
  • Reporting events to the council, police, an advice centre or a solicitor;
  • Asking the landlord to put all communications in writing;
  • Writing to the landlord saying that if the harassment continues you may be forced to take legal action. Keep a copy of your letter;
  • Have somebody else with you for support and as a witness whenever you have dealings with your landlord;
  • Getting together with other people who live in the house and working with them if they’re being threatened or harassed too.

In an emergency, for example if you have actually been evicted or where violence has been threatened, call the police. Also, call the person who deals with harassment and illegal eviction at the council (sometimes called a tenancy relations officer). The council may have an emergency telephone number. You could also phone Shelter’s free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.

You may be able to get a court order (called an injunction) to force your landlord to stop the harassment or let you back into your home. This can be effective because the landlord could be sent to prison if they don’t obey. You can ask the court to award compensation or damages for the harassment or illegal eviction. If you choose to do this you can get further advice from an advice centre or a solicitor.

Your local council has powers to help you and should take steps if you ask for help. The council can prosecute your landlord for the criminal offences of harassment and illegal eviction. Even if the council doesn’t think there is enough evidence to take your landlord to court it could, with your agreement, warn or officially caution the landlord of the consequences of their behaviour. The council will often try to settle the dispute without court action, but where there is clear evidence of a criminal offence the council should prosecute the landlord if you want it to.

If you need further support you can contact Shelter’s free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. An adviser can give emergency advice, fax information to the police, or if you feel it is unsafe to return to your home, they can advise you about alternative options.

Answered by Shelter on 06-Mar-2014

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