Is this harassment?

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    Is this harassment?

    Hello. My first post on this forum. I am a landlord in London, but the purpose of this post is to ask advice on behalf of a student friend of my daughter.

    Since September he has been a joint tenant in an HMO let on a "Non-assured tenancy" (I am not familiar with this form of tenancy, mine have always been ASTs).

    From the beginning, he tells me, there have been issues with the landlord/agent (it appears that the landlord owns the agency) relating to repairs that should have been made before they moved in (which were agreed in advance and detailed on the tenancy agreement). The tenants were also left with no hot water for a period of two weeks.

    Last week the landlord/agent informed the tenants that they would be accessing the property to show prosective tenants around for the next academic year and also that they would be opening the tenants individual rooms to show them (I doubt they are legally allowed to do this, but as I say, am not familiar with this form of tenancy agreement)

    On the day, my daughters friend was present and one of the prospective tenants asked him what it was like living there. He replied truthfully, detailing the problems they have had and did so in full hearing of the landlord/agents employee.

    The following day he received a message from the landlord/agent demanding that he go to their office "for a discussion". He agreed initially, but then asked me what I though he should do. I told him that he was under no compulsion to go and that I would cancel and ask them to outline what it was they wanted to discuss. This he did in an email.

    Today he got a reply as follows;


    Dear Mr XXXXX

    I am disappointed that you are unable to make the agreed meeting, since youpicked the time , and I now feel that you are avoiding me.

    I would like to make you aware that you can not upset XXXXX ,infect she
    found your immature behaviour quite amusing ,What you did however affects our business and that has consequences.

    As I am sure you are already aware, the meeting will cover the following
    points:.

    -Unreasonable behaviour *towards other housemates.
    -Unreasonable behaviour *towards maintenance men.
    -Unreasonable behaviour towards office staff.
    -Damage to property on several occasions.
    -Irreparable damage to our business.

    If you fail to make an appointment to meet me at a time to suite you, then I will have no choice but to come and see you at the room 10 unannounced.

    Please be sure that I do not intend to let this matter rest and unless we resolve it then I will be engaging a solicitor.I will also *contact your parents ,your University and will seek advice from the student Union.


    He tells me that he has had no problems of any sort with his housemates, maintenance men or office staff and that the only damage was when the key to his lock (of his own room) broke off and he had to force it to gain access (this was late at night and there was no way to contact the landlord/agent and no other way to gain access), the lock was subsequently repaired by the landlord/agent and he assumes that the cost will be taken from his damage deposit.

    I have known this young man for a number of years and he has always been most polite and non-assuming.

    I believe this is intimidation bordering on harassment. He is certainly very worried about it. I have advised him not to respond, and to seek advice from his university and the student union.

    Any further advice from here would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance

    #2
    I would advise him to contact his council's tenancy relations officer (or variant of).

    I'm not entirely sure how wise it was of you to post the actual email here though as it's quite specific whilst no names used.
    I'm a good tenant with great landlords
    I'm also a living, breathing, fully cooked female.

    Comment


      #3
      The only options I know of, and which might be applicable, for this to be a 'non-assured' tenancy, is if the LL is a 'specified institution' (e.g. college halls of residence); see paragraph 8 Schedule 1 Housing Act 1988. Or, if the occupiers do not have exclusive possession of their rooms and are provided services such as change of sheets, cleaning, etc (i.e. like a B&B). From the sound of it, neither of these apply, but it's somewhat beside the point.

      I agree with you that the agent's letter and threat of an unannounced visit is inappropriately intimidating (and sneering) in its tone. Whether it comprises harassment under Protection from Eviction Act 1977 is another matter (and note, the student's tenancy status is irrelevant - tenant or licencee, he is protected by the Act). The agent would need to be acting with the intention of either causing the occupier to give up occupation, or to refrain from exercising his rights in respect of the premises (see section 1), in order to commit an offence under the Act. IMO, if the agent follows through with his threats to contact X, Y, Z and to make an unannounced visit or visits, then he will be starting to build up a case against himself.

      The agent has no right to insist on a face-to-face meeting. He is entitled to put his complaints in writing, and the student is entitled to ignore the complaints. The agent/LL's only remedy to the alleged 'breaches' is then to serve notice and apply for a possession order; he may or may not succeed, but that is the only lawful way to proceed.

      The allegation of 'irreparable damage' to the agent's business is merely hot air, and he would get nowhere with a claim for damages.

      You have correctly advised the student not respond to the letter, and instead contact the university; but he should also contact the Tenancy Relations Officer at the local authority (as the local authority is the prosecuting body for offences under PEA 1977). It does sometimes happen that the local authority has no TRO, however.

      But there is also the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This is a police matter. See this link. An offence is committed if there is:
      • a course of conduct;
      • which amounts to harassment of another; and
      • which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.

      So, again, if the agent continues to send intimidating letters etc (there must be at least two incidents), then the student can report this to the police.

      If I were this student's parents, and if the agent stepped out of line on even one more occasion, I would also get a solicitor to write a letter to the agent, making it crystal clear that if he persists in harassing Mr X, he will be reported to the relevant authorities and may be prosecuted and/or face a civil claim for damages for harassment and breach of quiet enjoyment. One very coldly worded letter from a solicitor could well be all it takes to make the agent back down; I suspect he is used to bullying young student tenants (easy targets) and thinks he can get away with it.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Brb View Post
        I'm not entirely sure how wise it was of you to post the actual email here though as it's quite specific whilst no names used.
        Agreed, but I suppose necessary in order to convey the intimidating nature of the letter.

        Comment


          #5
          Many thanks for the prompt responses. I have passed them on.

          Thanks again.

          Comment


            #6
            Suggest he does 2 things....

            A) keep log (handwritten is fine) of all harassment or other unwelcome actions (for if it ever gets to court)
            B). Call Shelter free helpline 0808 800 4444

            Does landlord live in the building? Does he represent an educational establishment?

            Landlord is clearly an unpleasant idiot...

            Best wishes
            I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by theartfullodger View Post

              A) keep log (handwritten is fine) of all harassment or other unwelcome actions (for if it ever gets to court)
              Yes, very important.

              Comment

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