Harassment is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as two separate offences: 1) acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property and 2) persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises.
The first definition covers the following:
- Forcing occupiers to sign agreements that take away their legal rights;
- Removing or restricting essential services such as hot water or heating, or non-payment of bills so the services are cut off;
- Constant visits to the property, particularly late at night and/or without warning;
- Entering the accommodation when the occupier is not there, or without her/his permission
- Preventing the tenant having guests;
- Persistently offering the tenant a financial inducement to leave;
- Intentionally moving in nuisance tenants;
- Harassment of the tenant because of gender, race, disability or sexuality.
These acts could be committed against the tenant or any member of their household. Although the legislation refers to ‘acts’, the committing of one act could be enough.
The second definition can include the following:
- The disconnection of services such as electricity, hot water, heating, or any other essential services;
- Forcing the occupier to leave all or part of the property such as the common parts, one room or the whole of the premises. It does not include temporarily giving up the premises while repair works are completed;
- Forcing the tenant to refrain from exercising their legal rights and remedies associated with their tenancy such as getting them to sign an agreement that reduces their rights, or to give up the accommodation temporarily during repairs without the provision of any alternative accommodation.
- Preventing the tenant from exercising their rights such as reporting disrepair to an environmental health officer or going to a rent officer to get a fair rent registered.
Note: For an act or acts to be considered to be persistent, there must be some element of ‘deliberate continuity’ but a single act that affects a tenant over a period of time (such as cutting off supplies of electricity for an extended period) should be regarded as persistent withdrawing of services.
Note: the above definitions have been sourced from the Shelter website where more information on the subject can be found.