Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, sadly you may have experienced some form of harassment in the tenancy process before. Whether you’re a tenant being threatened with eviction by your landlord, or a landlord with a tenant from hell; this is never a great situation to be a part of. We’ve put together some helpful advice on the types of harassment you might face in the tenancy process and how to deal with them effectively.
What Counts as Harassment?
The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as a form of discrimination “within the work place and wider society.” Both tenants and landlords are protected by this law and any action that is not in line with the Equality Act is considered unlawful behaviour – you could even be taken to court over it. The purpose of the Equality Act 2010 is to ensure fairness, improve public services and to help with performance in businesses.
My Landlord is Harassing Me
Let’s start with the most talked about form of harassment in the tenancy process – Landlord harassment of tenants.
The most common examples of this include:
- Cutting off the tenant’s utilities, like electricity or water
- Landlord Trespassing – entering the property without notice or sending in other people on their behalf
- Becoming verbally or physically abusive towards a tenant
- Discriminating against a tenant because of their disability, race, sex or gender
- Raising rent without notice
- Refusing to repair vital parts of the property
Bear in mind, harassment doesn’t have to be carried out by your landlord directly. A third party, such as a letting agency or building firm, may harass tenants on behalf of the landlord. In other words, anything that results in a tenant feeling intimidated and interferes with the quality of their living conditions could qualify as a criminal offence. Let’s have a look at the best ways to deal with this and stop harassment.
Read and Read again
Rule number one: always read over the tenancy agreement carefully before signing it, in order to get a full understanding of the landlord’s responsibilities and their expectations from you once you’ve moved in. If you disagree with anything, that’s a sure sign that things could go wrong pretty quickly. Either negotiate or leave it and have a search for other properties and landlords that will be more suited to you.
If you’ve moved into a property and feel like you’ve been a victim of this kind of harassment, keep regular documentation of any incident that occurs between yourself and the landlord. Take note of the date and time and ask your landlord to do the same. Make sure to keep hold of anything that could be used as supporting evidence too – like emails, voicemails, letters or photos. It may also be worthwhile talking to other tenants under the same landlord to gain a better understanding of the situation you’re facing, so that you can deal with it appropriately.
Knowledge is Power, and Communication is Key
Communication skills are a must. You need to make sure you are communicating your needs clearly and avoiding any confusion that could lead to problems later on in your tenancy.
It’s important to know your rights as a tenant, but it’s also really important to become familiar with the actions your landlord is legally allowed to carry out, that are not classed as harassment, to avoid any unnecessary disagreements. These include:
- Entering your property in an emergency – landlords are free to enter your property without notice if there is an emergency situation.
- Raising the rent with plenty of notice – if your landlord wants to raise the price of your rent, they can do so, providing they supply you with enough notice. This is usually around 30 days.
- Filing for eviction after a missed rent payment – if you fail to pay your rent and your landlord has already sent you notice to make the payment, they can legally file for eviction.
My Tenant is Harassing Me
The harassment of a landlord by a tenant is a much less covered topic, but nevertheless, equally as difficult. If a tenant is going out of their way to interfere with a landlord’s life and purposefully cause disruption, it should be classed as harassment and treated in the same way.
It could be that a tenant is unable to pay rent, or that they are continuously disrupting other neighbours in the building. Maybe you’ve given notice of a rent increase and they’ve now become verbally abusive. In any case, there are ways to work things out and avoid additional problems.
Carry Out Tenant Reference Checks
Before moving anyone in, it’s sensible to conduct background research and a tenant reference check on the potential tenant in order to ensure you are choosing the right person. Use the viewings as a way of “interviewing” them first to find out a bit of information about why they are looking to move. You could even get in contact with previous landlords to find out about their history of renting and their expectations as a tenant.
If you are experiencing problems with a tenant who has already moved in, remember to log every problem that occurs so they can be referred back to and collect as much evidence as possible. You should carry regular property inspections to get an accurate idea of how your property is being treated during the tenancy. Notice of eviction should only ever be given as a last resort, if all else has failed, but this evidence will help support your case if you do find yourself having to take this route.
Cool, Calm and Collected
Remaining calm and rational throughout a difficult tenancy is tough, but absolutely necessary. Make sure to show your face enough to let the tenant know you care. Keep in regular communication so they know they can trust you. Creating a mutual, respectful relationship between landlords and tenants can help to stop any future problems in their tracks and maintain the peace for the remainder of the tenancy.
Tenants Harassing Other Tenants
Problems between tenants can arise for an abundance of reasons. Regardless of any background checks carried out beforehand, sometimes people just don’t get along. Most of the time they’re harmless and can be sorted out quickly, with little interference from the landlord.
However, some tenant on tenant harassment disputes require a little more attention. Whether it be a tenant who can’t stand their neighbor’s choice of early morning dance music, or a tenant who is a secret parking space thief; it can be hard to know how to deal with these awkward situations without getting too involved.
Be the Mediator – not the Drama Queen
As a landlord, you need to act as the mediator in these types of circumstances without getting caught up in the drama yourself. Outlining your expectations in the tenancy agreement is a good start. You should make your tenants aware of what they need to do if they wish to make a complaint about a neighbouring tenant. Do they need to call you? Do they need to put a formal complaint in writing? Whatever method you choose, make sure to be quick on the mark in responding and chase up so that they know it is important to you.
Always Remain Neutral
You certainly do not want a tenant feeling as though you have taken sides – this will reflect badly on you and aggravate the situation even more. Being impartial to the argument allows you to put forward an ‘outsider’s’ opinion that could sway the disagreement towards reconciliation.
Intervening Should Be the Last Resort
You should only even intervene if you absolutely NEED to. If the argument is getting out of hand or becoming a safety concern and you’ve done all you can on your own, you will need to think about taking legal action or asking for legal advice.
If you’re a landlord or a tenant wanting to avoid getting caught up in a chaotic tenancy process, we’re here to help. Check out No Letting Go’s inventory services for more information.
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