Intrusion and harassment by neighbours and others

In many respects the laws that protect you from the harassment of neighbours and others in respect of property you own or occupy is based on the principle that every person’s home is their castle. The right to keep others out of your property is one of the defining characteristics of property ownership or occupation. Those who are fortunate enough to own or rent their home are entitled to injunctions to prevent intrusion and damages to compensate for trespass.

Harassment of tenants by their landlords for the purpose of encouraging the tenants to leave can be particularly expensive for landlords. If tenants of a house or flat do leave as a result of harassment or attempted harassment of that kind, then under the Housing Act 1988 the tenants can claim the additional value which the house or flat has for the landlord without them in it (vacant possession) .

Harassment of this kind, calculated to cause an interference with a tenant’s peaceful enjoyment and comfort within the property, can also be a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 .

Neighbours who do not physically intrude on your property may none the less make life intolerable in a variety of ways. Unreasonable use of their neighbouring land can amount to an actionable wrong in the tort of private nuisance. This might be anything from the growing of plants and shrubs which adversely affect your property to the keeping of noisy animals. Again an injunction or a claim in damages can be used to restrain such behaviour. It could also be the subject of a claim under the PHA as indicated above. Although merely blocking the view from your property cannot amount to a private nuisance, you could potentially have a remedy under the PHA if it is part of a course of conduct amounting to harassment where there is the relevant knowledge on the part of the person responsible.

People who come to your door to sell goods, ask you to give to a charity, persuade you to support a particular religion or political party or ask questions for a market research survey have no right to enter your home. You can refuse to talk to them and they must leave when you ask them to.

Harassment can form the basis of a claim under the PHA even where it occurs outside the confines of your own home or in places which you yourself do not own, provided the harassment concerned amounts to a course of conduct as discussed above. There are many possible instances of such harassment, such as confrontation by a person in a public place or persistently following someone. In such cases, you may wish to consider reporting the matter to the police for the purposes of bringing criminal proceedings as well as considering bringing your own civil action in order to obtain an injunction to prevent that person from continuing with their behaviour.

Where harassment occurs through behaviour at work which is, for example, alarming or distressing, the same remedies under the PHA are potentially available. If you find yourself subject to this form of harassment, you should normally follow any procedures of reporting suggested by your employer - reporting to an appropriate senior manager or union representative. You may also have a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal. You should take legal advice in these circumstances.

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