Did You Know Landlords Can Be Sent to Prison for Harassment?
A landlord has made landlord news in Liverpool for harassing one of her tenants. She’s been jailed because of her offence. This article will help you avoid the same fate and becoming the hot topic in landlord news.
Violet Musoke, 61 and from Liverpool, intimidated and harassed her tenant, Dennis Adderley, 79. Dennis had lived in the landlord’s property on Picton Road in Wavertree for 34 years. He was shocked when his landlord, together with some of her relatives, entered his home without written notice, refusing to leave until Adderley threatened to call the police.
In addition to entering the property, Musoke had failed to make necessary repairs to Mr Adderley’s home. Mould, damp, and outdated electricity supply were all making the home unhabitable, and when informed of the issues, Musoke took no action. The outdated electricity supply became a life-threatening danger to Dennis, potentially making the home uninhabitable, while Dennis had recently had a tracheotomy and relied on medical equipment that was electrically powered.
In consequence, Musoke has been jailed. Deputy Mayor of Liverpool Lynnie Hinnigan said: “This is a shocking case in which the landlord attempted to intimidate a vulnerable elderly man.”
So, what is tenant harassment, and how can you avoid harassing your tenants?
What Is Tenant Harassment?
Typically, when you think of harassment you think of big, bullish guys intimidating and pressuring someone, such as the actions Musoke and her family took against Dennis Adderley. However, in landlord laws, harassment covers a range of actions that you, as a landlord, might take against your tenant. Some of them do not even require you to be in the presence of your tenant.
For example, showing up at your tenant’s property without 24 hours’ notice, or entering the property without permission, might be considered as harassment. Even though it is your property, it is your tenant’s home, and they have a right to privacy.
Actions that could be considered as harassment under UK law include:
- Cutting off services such as electricity or gas
- Removing amenities included in the tenancy agreement such as a parking space
- Withholding keys
- Opening the tenant’s post or removing their possessions
- Keeping the property in a state of disrepair
- Anti-social behaviour against the tenant
- Threats and physical violence
- Sexual harassment
Why You Must Not Harass Your Tenants
It goes without saying that all forms of harassment are bad. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure your tenants are safe in your property. Not only is it morally and socially wrong to commit harassment against your tenants, but there are also legal repercussions you could face – as Violet Musoke found out to her cost.
While some landlords may harass tenants deliberately, many simply do not know any better. They don’t act maliciously, yet, nevertheless, what they do is considered as harassment.
Understanding the laws concerning harassment and what your tenant’s rights are can prevent you from becoming landlord news like Musoke, and also save you money through retaining long-term tenants with a good landlord/tenant relationship.
Legal Repercussions of Harassment
If you threaten your tenant or enter their home without prior notice and consent, then they are within their rights to call the police and make a complaint against you. You could be forcibly removed from the property and face a prison sentence.
Your tenant can also file for a rental repayment order for offences such as harassment. If a successful RRO is issued, you can be forced to repay up to 12 months of rent to your tenant. So, court costs, a prison sentence, and out of pocket on the rent.
Social Repercussions of Harassment
Landlords, in general, have a pretty bad reputation. It seems like everyone you know has some horror story or another about a bad landlord they’ve encountered. This history of poor service from landlords has led to the birth of review sites that allow renters to post their personal experiences.
Even if your tenant does not decide to pursue legal action in the event of harassment, they may decide to give you a bad review and warn off future tenants. This could cost you a good tenant in the future, and force you to accept a lower rental price. Your reputation as a landlord really does make a difference, especially in such a socially connected world.
Harassment is wrong, so don’t do it or you may end up making landlord news. Whatever action you take – such as calling in on the tenant, chasing rent, or even sending a maintenance technician to the property – may have legal repercussions.
The good news is that a harassment situation tends to evolve over time, and is not usually associated with a single event. The bad news is that the law concerning harassment of tenants is complex. You should always put yourself in your tenant’s shoes before taking any action. Ask yourself how you would feel if the roles were reversed. Even then, you may fall foul of the tenant harassment laws.
If you aren’t sure of what constitutes harassment, you should seek legal advice before acting – even if you believe you are doing your tenant a favour. Sending a roofer to your buy-to-let property without first obtaining the tenant’s permission could be harassment – no matter how urgent the repair is.
Don’t become tomorrow’s landlord news. Keep on the right side of the law, always. This is just one of the benefits we provide to our landlord clients – exceptional knowledge of the current landlord law.
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