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Landlords who threaten eviction proceedings against residential tenants risk being accused of harassment.
The term “harassment” is not defined but includes causing alarm or distress.
In Worthington and another v Metropolitan Housing Trust Ltd  the two tenants in question were awarded damages for harassment in the sum of £4,750 and £4,160 respectively, with the Judge saying the landlord’s manager had got “a bee in his bonnet”.
The tenants had complained for years about anti-social behaviour of the other residents in the street and, with the agreement of the landlord, one of them installed CCTV equipment at her property for her own security. The other tenant set up a residents group with a website which was used to post information on what he considered to be unacceptable behaviour.
The neighbours did not like the activity of the two tenants and considered it an invasion of their privacy. The landlord’s management team had a change of heart and decided that it was the two tenants who had installed CCTV and set up a website that were the source of the problems. The landlord’s solicitors sent letters to both tenants about the use of CCTV, even though one of them did not have CCTV installed, and threatened possession proceedings.
The Judge found that the landlord had employed an inexperienced manager who had misunderstood the issues and had got a “bee in his bonnet”. He said the lack of supervision of junior managers is what led to the letters being sent and “careful scrutiny and supervision” of the junior managers was not provided.
The landlord appealed the decision but was unsuccessful. The Court of Appeal said “the landlord had issued threats without taking the most basic steps to ensure that they had proper foundation.. in fact, they were totally unjustified”.
This case highlights the importance of investigating complaints of anti-social behaviour between residential tenants and the caution that must be taken by landlords in threatening residential tenants with possession proceedings.
At Myerson our property team has extensive experience in dealing with landlord and tenant issues. If you would like advice in this area you can contact us by calling 0161 941 4000 or by emailing email@example.com.