Harassment in your area
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
The law can protect you from harassment in a variety of different ways. In most cases, your options depend on who is carrying out the harassment.
Harassment by landlords
If your landlord is snooping around, threatens you, or comes round unannounced, s/he may be guilty of harassment. If a landlord is trying to force you to leave by doing things like this, it's probably a criminal offence. You can take practical steps to try to stop the harassment, and the council may be able to help.
You can also go to court to get an injunction to stop your landlord harassing you. An injunction is a court order that your landlord has to obey, or s/he can be imprisoned for contempt of court. A power of arrest may be attached to the injunction, which means that the police can arrest your landlord and take her/him straight to court for breaking the injunction. You can also get an injunction against anyone who is harassing you on behalf of the landlord, such as an employee of the landlord or a letting agent.
Harassment by other people
If someone who lives in your neighbourhood is harassing you, you can take steps to stop the harassment, and the police may be able to help. You can also go to court to prevent the harassment.
What counts as harassment?
Harassment can take a number of different forms, for example:
- visiting your home regularly without warning, especially late at night
- interfering with your post
- sending hate mail, texts or emails or making unpleasant telephone calls
- threatening you
- harassing you because of your gender, race or sexuality
- stalking you.
To be harassment, bad behaviour must happen on at least two occasions. The more times something has happened, the more likely it is to be harassment. The person accused is at fault if they know what they are doing is harassment, or if it obviously is harassment. The following are not likely to be considered harassment in the eyes of the law:
- a demonstration or public protest
- noise nuisance - eg playing music loudly or operating loud machinery
- doing something reasonable.
Harassment is often a form of antisocial behaviour. But if you are the only victim, you may need to do more yourself than if the behaviour is affecting a lot of people. Be prepared to be firm with people like landlords.
Motivations for harassment
It is often hard to understand why harassment happens, but it may help you to stop it if you know the reason why. Common causes include:
- antisocial behaviour
- bigotry, prejudice and intolerance, by reason of race, religion, sexuality etc
- an ex partner or ex spouse who feels aggrieved (although this may often be classed as domestic abuse)
- mental health or substance use problems
- someone you have made a complaint about who wants to get even
- someone who is not happy about something that you are doing.
Harassment can't be justified, but in some situations there are things you can do to help resolve the problem. For example, if a neighbour threatens you because your loud music keeps him up all night, your music is part of the problem. Often more than one cause is at work. Try to understand the reason for the harassment, and that will help you to decide what is the best way of dealing with it.
Dealing with harassment
If you are a victim of harassment, there are lots of things you can do. You should start by taking practical steps to protect yourself. That may solve the problem, but if not, there are a lot of other things you can try. The action you take depends on what the problem is, how bad the problem is and what, if anything, you have already tried to do about it. It is always a good idea to get advice from a local advice centre - use our directory to find one. An adviser can help you look into your options. Possible solutions might include: