Harassment is not necessarily what you think it is. Most landlords think that they are pretty nice people and would be horrified by the idea that they are harassing their tenants.
However the law defines harassment not by what the landlord thinks about his behaviour but by the effect it has on the tenant.
What it is
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 says that a landlord will be guilty of an offence if he
has reasonable cause to believe, that that conduct is likely to cause the residential occupier to give up the occupation of the whole or part of the premises or to refrain from exercising any right or pursuing any remedy in respect of the whole or part of the premises
This can include things like
- Visiting the tenant a lot making demands for unpaid rent
- Carrying out too frequent inspections of the property,
- Curting of essential services such as gas or electricity
- Failing to carry out essential repair work, or even
- Sending too many text messages
Harassment is also one of those things which is both a criminal offence AND a civil wrong. So if you are guilty of harassment, not only can you find yourself being prosecuted by the Local Authority, you may also find yourself being sued for compensation by your tenant.
Which is not something you will want, particularly if your tenant is in arrears of rent.
Neither will you want your tenant to counterclaim for compensation for harassment if you are bringing a claim for a CCJ for unpaid rent – particularly if this ends up with you being ordered to pay money to your tenant!
What it isn’t
Note though that bringing a court claim will not (normally) in itself be classed as harassment, so your tenant cannot accuse you of harassment if you bring court proceedings for a CCJ or if you serve a possession notice and then bring proceedings for possession. Provided you do this in the proper way.
So serving the wrong form of possession notice on the tenant can be classed as harassment as you are asking the tenant to leave under circumstances where you are not entitled to (because you have not used the right paperwork).
However serving the right form of notice is fine. Unless you do this in an unreasonable way – for example by serving one every day!
Most landlord / tenant problems arise in situations where the tenant owes rent and the landlord is desperate for the money. Often the landlord will consider he is entitled to (for example) go and shout at the tenant, as it is the tenant who is in breach of the tenancy and not him.
However by doing this you will put yourself in the wrong and will make it more difficult to enforce your rights.