Harassment and illegal eviction
The law protects people living in residential property against harassment and illegal eviction.
It does this in two ways; by making harassment and illegal eviction a criminal offence and by enabling someone who is harassed or illegally evicted to claim damages through the civil court.
Always contact an adviser if what your landlord is doing seems unfair. You may have more rights than you think.
The fact that your landlord owns your home does not give them, or anyone acting on their behalf, a right to harass you.
Harassment can be defined broadly as:
- acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living at the property, or
- persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises.
Examples of harassment might include:
- removing or restricting essential services such as hot water or heating
- interfering with the occupier’s post
- forcing occupiers to sign agreements that take away their legal rights
- constant visits by the landlord or his/her representatives to the property, particularly if these occur late at night or without warning
- entering the property when the occupier is not there or without his/her permission
- allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that it is dangerous to live in
- intentionally moving in other tenants who cause nuisance
- threats and/or physical violence against the occupier(s)
- harassment because of gender, race, disability or sexuality.
It is an offence for the landlord or their agent to do any of these things knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that they would cause the tenant to leave their home, stop using part of it, or stop doing the things a tenant should normally expect to be able to do.
For more information see our page on What counts as harassment?
It is an offence to take someone’s home away from him or her unlawfully.
Most occupiers of rented accommodation cannot be evicted unless specific legal procedures have been followed. The exact procedures vary according to the particular type of tenancy or licence agreement that you have but for most tenants, including assured shorthold tenants, landlords have to follow 3 steps :
Certain occupiers are excluded from the protection provided by the need for court action to be taken. This includes where they:
- live in the same building as their landlord and share living accommodation
- live in holiday accommodation
- don’t have any legal obligation to pay rent
- live in a hostel or other temporary accommodation.
If your landlord does not use the correct legal procedure to evict you, they could be illegally evicting you. See our pages on illegal eviction for more information and contact an adviser as soon as possible.
It is always illegal for a landlord to use violence to get you to leave. If this happens the police should be contacted immediately.
Negotiating with your landlord
Although there is no excuse for a landlord harassing or illegally evicting an occupier, in some cases it may help to understand the landlord’s reasons, particularly if the matter can be resolved by mediation. Sometimes the landlord may not know that they are acting illegally and they may be encouraged to approach the situation is a different way.
Common problems in a tenancy are:
Can the situation be resolved if a realistic financial plan is negotiated? Are you eligible for any additional financial help?
Inspecting or entering the property
Reasonable notice should be given of an inspection. Can you negotiate with the landlord to agree how often it is acceptable to inspect the property? It is not acceptable for the landlord to enter the property without notice and the landlord does not have an automatic right to a key unless the tenancy agreement states this to be a condition of the tenancy.
If you go away for a long time without notifying the landlord she/he may mistakenly think that the property has been abandoned. It is important to keep the landlord up to date.
What should I do if I think I am being harassed or illegally evicted?
If you think you are being harassed or evicted illegally by your landlord or agent,it would help to take the following steps :
- Report the events to your local council’s housing department. They might have a tenancy relations officer who can speak to the landlord on your behalf
- Keep a diary, notes and photographs detailing what happens and the time, date and place of all events or incidents
- Report any harassment, violence or threats to the police
- Ask the landlord to put all communications in writing and keep copies. Follow up any conversation with the landlord with a letter or email which confirms what was said and agreed
- Have somebody else present to give support and act as a witness whenever there are dealings with the landlord or landlord’s agent.
Download our factsheet on unlawful eviction.
If you need further advice, call Shelter Cymru’s expert housing advice helpline on 0345 075 5005. You could also email our housing advice team, or, if you prefer, visit advice near you to find a local Shelter Cymru advice surgery where you can talk to someone in person.