How to conduct a successful property viewing

What constitutes tenant harassment?

Question

I have been trying for a few weeks to contact my tenant to get access for some essential maintenance checks. I have only sent a couple of texts and two emails, but I am worried that I have gone too far! What exactly constitutes harassment?

Answer

In your mind, harassment probably conjures up images of baseball bats and shadowy figures, and the thought that you have been harassing your tenant having sent a few texts and emails probably doesn’t ring true. However, there are a number of actions that can be deemed as harassment, and it is important to be clear on the definitions.

Harassment is defined as any actions that you take that deliberately disrupts your tenant’s life at home or are a direct action to make them leave the property. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Entering the tenant’s property without permission
  • Sending tradesmen in without notice, or at unsociable hours
  • Cutting off utilities – water, gas, electric
  • Interfering with belongings in or around the property
  • Interfering with post (this is a criminal act in itself)
  • Threatening physical violence
  • Discriminating on the grounds of gender, race or sexuality
  • Allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that its dangerous for the tenant to remain
  • Beginning disruptive works and not finishing them
  • Refusing to allow your tenant access to certain parts of the property
  • Preventing your tenant from having guests
  • Intentionally moving other tenants in that are a nuisance to the household
  • Forcing the tenant to sign agreements which remove their legal rights

It is wise to remember that instructing someone else to carry out an action that would have this impact – a friend, member of your family, employee or letting agent for example – would have the same effect.

With regards to your texts and emails, if they are pleasant and non-confrontational, and you haven’t bombarded your tenant every two minutes with demands to enter the property at unreasonable hours, it is possible that a case for harassment would not hold much water, however, tread very carefully.

Next steps:

  • If your tenant is feeling overwhelmed by your contact, maybe it is wise to take a step back, and let the dust settle for a while.
  • If you need to communicate with your tenant (to request access for gas safety checks for example), make sure this is done via email, so you have a dated copy.
  • If you receive any non-written correspondence from your tenant, make a clear, detailed note of it, taking down the date and everything that was said. If you find yourself having to produce evidence in court this paper trail could be invaluable
  • Don’t visit the property – forget you even have keys for it! Although the property belongs to you, it is your tenant’s home, and you do not have right to enter.
  • Try and stay calm – although I is a horrible thin to be accused of, getting angry at your tenant is the absolute worst thing you could do. Stay calm, and carry on.

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