Harassment and illegal eviction
Are you having serious problems with a landlord or someone acting on their behalf? If what they are doing counts as harassment or illegal eviction, they are committing a serious offence and can be prosecuted.
The laws that affect how your landlord can behave are complicated. You should always contact an adviser if what your landlord is doing seems unfair. You may have more rights than you think.
Take a look at the pages below and download our free Unlawful Eviction fact sheet.
If your landlord is harassing you, there are a number of practical steps that you can take.
It is helpful to keep a record of what has been happening. The record will be useful if you have to take further action at a later date. The record could include:
- a diary of what is happening, including the time, date and place where any incident took place and a short description of what happened,
- photographs of any damage the landlord has caused to the property or your belongings,
- short descriptions of any incidents by anyone who witnessed them.
Putting agreements in writing
It may also help to make all contact that you have with your landlord more formal. This can protect you by giving you space to think about what it is you want to say or do, and by providing you with evidence about what has happened in case of a dispute in the future. The following things may help:
- communicate with your landlord only in writing or by email, and keep copies of every letter or email that you send
- if you have a conversation with your landlord, follow this up with a letter or email that confirms what was said and what was agreed
- write to your landlord and tell her/him that if the harassment continues you may have to take legal action
- have a friend or adviser with you whenever you have to deal with your landlord in person.
It is important that you report any incidents to the local council and/or to Rent Smart Wales. Licensed private landlords have to comply with a Code of Practice and if they are not doing so then Rent Smart Wales can investigate.
You should also report any serious or violent incidents to the police. Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences and your landlord could be prosecuted.
Getting together with other tenants
If you live in shared accommodation it is possible that your landlord is also harassing other tenants in the property. If this is the case, then you could all join together to form a tenants’ association and approach the landlord as a group. You will have more bargaining power if you act together and your landlord will not be able to single out one person. You can also provide witness statements for other tenants if any incidents occur.
Some types of shared accommodation are known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and councils have extra powers to take action against landlords of HMOs. This might apply to you if you live in a bedsit, a house or flat shared by several households, a hostel or a bed and breakfast hotel.
Getting back into the property
If you have been illegally evicted, you may have the right to re-enter your home, even if your landlord has changed the locks. This is a complicated area of law, and it is vital that you are certain that you have these rights before taking any action. Otherwise, you might be committing a criminal offence.
Get advice before you take any action. If your local council has a tenancy relations officer s/he may be able to help you to re-enter your home. If your landlord has not rented your home out to someone else, you may be able to get the court to order your landlord to let you back into your home.
If you are certain that you have been illegally evicted and have the right to re-enter your home, be very careful not to damage the building. If you break or damage any part of the property (such as the door), you could be responsible for the repairs and you could be committing criminal damage. If you change the lock, you should keep the old lock (and any keys), and return them to the landlord.
In some cases the police may be willing to attend while you re-enter your home, in order to ensure that there is not a breach of the peace.
Getting your belongings back
If your landlord has illegally evicted you, and your belongings are still in your home, you have a right to get them back, even if you have rent arrears. If your landlord keeps hold of your belongings and refuses to return them to you, this is an offence known as conversion and you may be able to take your landlord to court. You may be able to get an injunction and/or claim damages.
How the police can help
Although harassment and illegal eviction are both criminal offences, it can often be difficult to get the police to help you to prevent them from taking place. There is often some confusion about the law, and what responsibilities the police have.
However, they will usually agree to come to the property to prevent a breach of the peace from taking place. This could be helpful if you need to get back into the property, or reclaim your belongings. An adviser may be able to explain the situation to the police, and clarify the ways in which they can help.
If you have difficulty getting the police to help you, or if they come to your home and mistakenly help your landlord to evict you illegally, you can complain to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which will investigate your complaint.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.
If your landlord does something that interferes with your ability to enjoy living in your home in peace and is intended to make you leave your home or take away your rights, s/he could be guilty of harassment.