Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Tenants Win Harassment Damages Case Against Housing Association

Has your housing association or council landlord (in fact, any landlord) gone over the top in threatening you with eviction or an injunction because of unjustified allegations? Metropolitan Housing Trust Ltd did just that towards two long standing assured tenants. The Court of Appeal has just thrown out an appeal by Metropolitan against a judgment in the tenants' favour for a total of nearly £5,000 damages. The judgment was based on Metropolitan's threats by letters over a period of time to take the tenants to court for possession of their respective homes and for an injunction because of alleged anti-social behaviour. The threats had been made without justification after a junior employee who was an estate manager had come onto the scene and got the wrong end of the stick. This was compounded by the fact that his managers had not scrutinised his work and supervised him as they should have done. Metropolitan had failed to take the most basic steps to ensure their allegations had a proper foundation. 

Harassment is both a criminal offence and can give rise to a civil claim for damages and an injunction. There's plenty on the subject and a draft court document you can adapt for a civil claim in my book, Breaking Law. To succeed with a civil claim as in this case, you need at least two acts (or conduct on one occasion towards two or more people) which amount to harassment. The perpetrator must know or should have known that what they did was harassment and the court will regard it as harassment if a reasonable person who had the same information as the perpetrator would have regarded it as harassment. Causing alarm or distress is not essential although the claim will be that much stronger if that was the result.

Courts will have in mind that irritations, annoyances, even a measure of upset, can arise at times in everybody's dealings with other people. It follows that conduct which is unattractive, even unreasonable, will probably not be enough to constitute harassment. The conduct needs to be oppressive and unacceptable as it was held to be in the recent case.

So whether the harassment is coming from your landlord, bank manager or former lover, tell them to read the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Worthington and another v Metropolitan Housing Trust Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 1125 and put that in their pipe and smoke it.