Harassment is illegal
If your landlord is harassing you, it’s potentially a criminal offence. Examples of harassment include:
- Removing or restricting services like gas, electricity or water, or failing to pay bills so these services are cut off
- Visiting your home regularly without warning, especially late at night
- Interfering with your post
- Threatening you
- Sending builders round without notice
- Entering your home when you are not there without your permission
- Letting your home get into such a bad state that it’s dangerous to stay there
- Starting disruptive repair works and not finishing them
- Harassing you because of your gender, race or sexuality
You have the right to live without nuisance from your landlord (e.g. they must give you 24 hours’ notice before any visit unless it’s a clear emergency). In most cases, your landlord must not discriminate against you. There may be some exceptions (e.g. if you live in their home).
You are legally allowed to change the locks to protect yourself from harassment, as long as you keep the original lock and put it back on when you leave.
There are different types of renting and the most common, assured tenancies, often have rights written in the contract. Some rights always apply as long as you can prove you’ve paid the landlord — no matter what the landlord or contract says.
What to do about it
If your landlord is harassing you because of your gender, race, or sexuality, it can be hard to know what to do. The power that landlords hold over tenants can make it daunting to confront them, and these situations can make you feel very isolated. Listed below are some strategies for coping with the situation, as well as ways that you can begin to document what is happening, which will hopefully help to create a situation where you feel able to confront the behaviour in some way.
Look after yourself
Harassment is not your fault, and it’s not your responsibility. It’s great if you can immediately confront the perpetrator and take control of the situation, but there's no need to feel guilty if you can’t. Confrontation can be unsafe, especially alone. At this stage, coping is just as important as fighting.
Think about what happened, and how it made you feel
Experiences of harassment can be confusing and upsetting. Taking time to make sure you know how you feel about it can be a huge help. Others might try to convince you that you are making a ‘fuss over nothing,’ or that it is ‘all in your head’. Do not let them!
Communicate with those you trust
Take a moment to think about who is best in your life to turn to in this situation. This doesn’t have to be about taking action, but it’s often really helpful having people that you are comfortable talking to and that you can trust to understand and support you.
Write down what happened
Try and write down the details as soon as possible after it happened. Write what was said and done, who said or did it, who else was there, and the time and date. Then write down how you felt. Even if you don’t want to do anything about it now, this could be very important in the future, whether in establishing a pattern of harassment, or in defending yourself and your account of events. It will also help you to share experiences with others, or discover something that you thought was personal to you, is actually happening to them too. This record could be a journal, audio recordings, an email log, saved text messages, or any other way that’s convenient and safe to do.
There are many types of evidence: copies of emails, text messages, letters or other documents; and a diary of incidents/events. Think about using a tape recorder or a mobile phone to record conversations.
If you want help with any of this, you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by texting 07427239960. You might also want to speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk), to Shelter (https://www.shelter.org.uk), or to the University of Sussex Housing Law Clinic (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/law/clinical-legal-education/hlc).