Protection From Eviction Act 1977
One of the key areas defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as two separate offences is that of harrassment.
The first offence are acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property such as:
- 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 asking them to leave;
- Persistently offering an inducement (usually financial) to leave;
- Intentionally moving in nuisance tenants;
- Harassment because of gender, race, disability or sexuality.
These acts could be committed against the tenant (or any member of their household) by any person if it can be shown that s/he had an intent to cause an occupier to leave all or part of the property or refrain from exercising any right or remedy in respect of the premises. Although the legislation refers to ‘acts’, the committing of one act could be enough.
The second , that of persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises, can only be committed by a landlord or her/his agent and are as follows:
- Removing or restricting essential services such as water, gas or electricity supplies or non-payment of bills so the services are eventually disconnected;
- Forcing the occupier to leave all or part of the property such as the common parts, one room or the whole of the premises;
- Forcing the tenant to refrain from exercising their legal rights and remedies associated with their tenancy such as reporting disrepair to an environmental health officer, going to a rent officer to get a fair rent registered, getting them to sign an agreement that reduces their rights, or getting them to give up the accommodation temporarily during repairs without the provision of any alternative accommodation;
Allowing the property to fall into such a bad state of repair that it becomes uncomfortable or even dangerous to live in.
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.