Harassment and illegal eviction

This following information is about harassment by landlords. If you are being harassed by someone who is not your landlord, please click here.

Harassment by landlords can be very distressing and may make you want to leave your home but there are other options available.

The law

Most people who rent from private landlords are covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This Act creates three main offences.

Unlawfully depriving a residential occupier of access to all or part of their accommodation.

  • This offence can be committed by anyone, not just a landlord or agent.
  • Someone charged with this offence may have a defence if they can prove they believed the occupier was no longer living in the property.

Acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property.

  • This offence can be committed by anyone, not just a landlord or agent.
  • The offence must have been commited with the intention of causing the occupier to leave all or part of the property or refrain from exercising his or her rights.

Persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the permises.

  • This offence can only be committed by a landlord or agent.
  • It must be shown that the landlord or agent knew, or had reasonable cause to believe that, their actions were likely to cause the occupier to give up occupation or refrain from exercising his or her rights.

Who has protection from eviction?

A residential occupier has protection from eviction. A residential occupier is a person who has the legal right to occupy a property. This includes most tenants and licensees, including people with no written contract.

Most people - even those whose contracts have expired or been brought to an end by valid notice - are further protected due to the fact that they cannot be evicted without a court order.

Some people can be evicted legally without a court order. This will apply to you if you live in the same property as your landlord and you share living accommodation with the landlord or a member of the landlord's family. Living accommodation means a room such as the kitchen or bathroom. Although a resident landlord in this situation does not have to obtain a court order to evict someone, he or she can still be found guilty of harassment or illegal eviction if they fail to give reasonable notice. Reasonable notice can be written or verbal and usually equals a rental period - for example, if you pay your rent monthly, one month's notice would normally be required.

If you do not have a resident landlord, you will probably be an assured shorthold tenant but it is important to be sure. For more information use the Shelter Tenancy Checker.

What is landlord harassment?

Listed below are some kinds of behaviour which could be viewed as harassment.

  • Removing or restricting access to essential services such as gas, electricity and water.
  • Regularly visiting your home without reasonable notice (usually 24 hours).
  • Sending builders round without notice.
  • Entering the property when you are not there without permission.
  • Threatening you.
  • Allowing your home to get into a bad state of repair so that it is dangerous for you to stay.
  • Harassing you because of your race, gender or sexuality.
  • Restricting access to certain parts of your home.
  • Forcing you to sign agreements that may take away your legal rights.

What can you do if you are suffering from landlord harassment?

It can be a good idea to -

  • Keep a record of events, such as a diary and photographs.
  • Communicate in writing wherever possible.
  • Inform the landlord in writing that if the harassment continues you may have to take legal action.
  • If you feel intimidated, try and have someone with you when you see them.
  • If the landlord is violent towards you, or threatens you with violence, contact the police.
  • If the landlord is a member of a trade organisation such as ARLA, complain to the association - they may have to leave.
  • If the property is registered with the University, contact propertywithUS.
  • If you have a problem out of normal office hours but you do not feel it is serious enough to contact the police, contact University Security on 0114 222 4085. They will sometimes attend to assist and will keep a record of the incident.

Where to go for help

Student Advice Centre

  • A free and professional advice and representation service to all University of Sheffield students.
  • Experienced housing advisers available to contact landlords and liaise with other agencies on your behalf.
  • Where necessary, help find alternative accommodation.
  • Contact advice@sheffield.ac.uk or phone 0114 222 8660 to speak with an adviser.

Housing Aid

  • Free service run by Sheffield City Council.
  • Specialist Tenancy Relations Officers with powers to caution and prosecute landlords if necessary.
  • In an emergency - such as being locked out of your home - phone 0114 273 5876.

Solicitors

  • Use a solicitor to get an injunction against your landlord to stop harassment and/or be reinstated after an illegal eviction and/or claim damages.
  • The service is not free although you may qualify for legal aid if you are on a low income.

To find a solicitor and for information on help with legal costs, click here.

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