Social housing providers are at the heart of the communities they serve and, for that very reason, can sometimes find themselves embroiled in neighbourhood conflict. That is exactly what happened in one case in which a social landlord was ordered to pay more than £8,000 in harassment damages to two of its tenants.
 
The tenants, a man and a woman, were concerned about anti-social behaviour in the area where they lived. One of them had been obliged to move four times and had formed a community group to gather evidence of unacceptable behaviour, which was posted on a website. The other was so concerned about her security that she had installed CCTV equipment to keep watch on her property.
 

Their activities had generated a considerable amount of hostility from neighbours and their landlord, a social housing trust, received complaints that the man was invading other residents’ privacy by recording them going about their lives. There was particular concern that he had filmed children and young people. There were also complaints that the woman’s CCTV equipment covered an area beyond the boundaries of her property and was being used for an inappropriate purpose.

The landlord’s response was to issue escalating warnings and threats of legal action against the tenants. They were accused of causing an annoyance or nuisance to their neighbours, in breach of their tenancy agreements, and were eventually told that injunctions would be sought against them and that their homes were at risk. After the tenants obtained legal advice, they launched proceedings against the landlord under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

In upholding their claims, a judge found that the landlord’s analysis of the complaints had been wholly uncritical and inadequate. Baseless and entirely incorrect allegations had been made against the man. The woman had been granted specific permission by the landlord to install CCTV at a previous address and had reasonably assumed that the same equipment could be installed at her new home. Both tenants had been subjected to an oppressive course of conduct and the man was awarded £4,750 in damages. The woman received a £4,160 award.

In dismissing the landlord’s challenge to the judge’s ruling, the Court of Appeal found that the approach of the landlord’s estate manager had been hopelessly careless and that the tenants’ treatment clearly amounted to harassment. Both were long-term assured tenants and the landlord had at all material times been aware of their concerns about anti-social behaviour. In the circumstances, the landlord should have known that its unjustified actions would cause them alarm and distress.

For help and advice contact Sundeep Bilkhu on s.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk or call 0808 166 8974.

 

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