How to Deal with Landlord Harassment

By: ROS Team

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Like any relationship, there is no guarantee that your relationship with your landlord will always be peaceful. Things may go wrong for any reason, and landlords might retaliate with intimidation or harassment. As a tenant, you need to have a complete insight into how to differentiate between when a landlord’s actions are legal and when their actions can be considered harassment.

What Counts as Landlord Harassment?

Landlord harassment includes any aggressive methods used to coerce, intimidate, or pressure a tenant into achieving the desired outcome of something like breaking a lease or getting the tenant to leave the property’s premises.

In most cases, these actions are pervasive. Isolated incidents don’t rise to the level of harassment. Sometimes, your landlord might not even be aware of their problematic behavior. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure their actions don’t escalate to the point where a tenant feels harassed.

Examples of Landlord Harassment

Some examples of landlord harassment include but are not limited to:

1) Entering the premises without prior notice or permission, or illegal entry. Advance notice is usually given to the tenant when a landlord wants to visit the property unless there’s an emergency;

2) Shutting off utilities, including discontinuing access to amenities like parking or laundry facilities, also falls under harassment. A landlord cannot make the property uninhabitable because of a disagreement with a tenant;

3) A landlord may not change door locks to run the tenant off–doing so can constitute harassing behavior;

4) Removing a tenant’s belongings from the apartment without notice or permission;

5) Increasing the monthly rent without prior notice. In most states, the law requires landlords to give a formal 30-day notice to the tenant before increasing the rent. Not doing so may be considered harassment;

6) Buying the tenant out of their lease agreement;

7) Making threatening phone calls or writing threatening emails, text messages, or eviction notices;

8) Any level of physical assault against the tenant, including attempting to physically restrict their entry to or exit from the premises;

9) Refusal to accept rent payments due to a previous complaint;

10) Filling false charges against a tenant;

11) Initiating maintenance or construction projects to be a nuisance to the tenant; or

12) Making sexual advances or frequent inappropriate remarks to the tenant.

what to do if landlord is harassing you

Permissible Landlord Actions

Just because a landlord’s actions are not desirable doesn’t make them harassing. Here’s a brief listing of actions that are permissible for a landlord to make when dealing with a tenant:

  • Entering the premise when there’s an emergency;
  • Evicting a tenant who’s frequently delinquent paying rent despite sending payment reminders;
  • Enacting a rent increase with at least 30 days notice;
  • Issuing a notice to quit due to ongoing lease violations; and
  • Offering to pay the tenant to move out of the property as long as they follow legal measures.

What to Do if Your Landlord is Harassing You

You have several options if you experience landlord harassment. The most important thing you can do is document all incidents with your landlord along with the date of the nature of the harassment.  If possible, the tenant should also keep any evidence of the harassment like emails, letters, text messages, or voicemails.

Once you have collected supporting documentation, you can file a complaint with the appropriate authorities or request a restraining order against your landlord.  in extreme cases, you can also sue your landlord for damages.

NY State Laws about Landlord Harassment

New York landlords can face fines between $3,000 and $11,000 if they are found guilty of harassment. Additionally, a landlord cannot increase the rent of the tenant who filed the complaint as an act of retaliation. Tenants are protected from rent increases when they file lawsuits until the Division of Housing and Community Renewal removes it.


Can I Break my Lease if I am being Harassed by my Landlord?

In some cases, tenant harassment may be considered a breach of the lease agreement. Review your lease carefully and consult with a lawyer to understand if you have grounds to break the lease without penalty due to the landlord’s harassment. However, the specific laws and regulations governing lease termination vary by jurisdiction.

What if my Landlord Retaliates Against me for Reporting Harassment?

Retaliatory actions by a landlord for reporting harassment are generally prohibited by law. Document any instances of retaliation and consult with a lawyer immediately. They can guide you on how to protect your rights and take appropriate legal action against the landlord.

How Long Does it Take to Resolve a Landlord Harassment Case?

The duration of resolving a landlord harassment case can vary significantly depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the case, the legal process involved, and the jurisdiction. It is best to consult with a lawyer to get a better understanding of the timeline specific to your situation.

Final Words:

By law, a landlord cannot coerce, harass, or intimidate a tenant in an attempt to get a tenant to vacate a rental property. Therefore, it is important for landlords to keep copies of all letters, notices, and rental agreements.  It’s also important to document all conversations had with tenants. Tenants should also try to document events and notice things that repeatedly happen with the landlord.

It is critical that tenants know how to recognize the types of actions and behaviors that could constitute harassment. These actions and behaviors should not be ignored.