Property Management, Tenant Selection, Real Estate News & Tips

Is Your Landlord Harassing You?

By on June 14, 2016 in Education with 26 Comments

Landlord harrassmentDespite laws and guidance that promote positive landlord-tenant relationships, sometimes personalities get in the way of smart business practices (and common human decency) that create situations where a tenant feels threatened or harassed by their landlord.  

What is landlord harassment?

Landlord harassment is when a landlord or property manager willingly creates a situation where a tenant feels uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that they wish to move or terminate a lease agreement. Landlord harassment and tenant harassment are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to a tenant feeling harassed by their landlord.

Harassing a tenant with the intention of making their living situation so uncomfortable they want to move or terminate a lease agreement is illegal.

Unfortunately, some landlords have turned to harassment in order to get tenants to move out of rent controlled units, as seen in New York and California. Landlord harassment is considered such an issue in major cities of these states that specific laws and protections were created to protect renters and punish violators. See San Francisco, Santa Monica, CA, and NYC for examples of tenant protections against landlord harassment.

Getting accused of harassment is a serious issue that a landlord should not take lightly.  If you find yourself butting heads with your tenant, as long as your tenant is not violating any lease terms, you have to let them live in the property throughout the duration of the lease. Both renters and landlords need to be aware of what constitutes true harassment.

Here is an overview of what is not acceptable behavior and what could be considered harassment:

  • Taking away services provided in the lease (such as parking or laundry)
  • Shutting of utilities for the purpose of harassment or eviction
  • Entering an apartment without proper notice
  • Changing the locks while a tenant is away
  • Offering to buyout a tenant if they move and threatening an eviction if the tenant says no
  • Performing unnecessary inspections, too often or at extremely inconvenient times for the tenant, like the middle of the night
  • Lying or intimidating a tenant
  • Giving a “three-day notice” or other eviction notice that is based on false charges
  • Using fighting words or threatening bodily harm
  • Refusing to do repairs that are required by law
  • Intentionally disturbing a tenant’s peace and quiet
  • Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy
  • Refusing to acknowledge receipt of a lawful rent payment

What to do if you feel harassed by your landlord:

You should always try and resolve an issue directly with the owner. If you rent from a property manager, talk to their manager or the owner of the management company. Clear and active communication can effectively solve a lot of problems and may settle a simple misunderstanding. If you have tried to work out an disagreement civilly and still feel harassed by a landlord, you should talk to an attorney about filing an official complaint and possibly seek damages.

A harassed tenant should also take the following steps to protect themselves:

  1. Keep a log of every encounter you have with your landlord. Make sure to take note of the time, date, and what was said.
  2. Write a letter to your landlord asking for the harassment to stop. Send the letter with proof of mailing and keep a copy of the letter.
  3. Ask a witness to be there for landlord interactions. Witness accounts and video recordings of your interactions can be used in court as long as they were done legally.
  4. Keep copies of all rental agreements, letters, notices, photos, names of witnesses, notes, and any other evidence used to support your claim.
  5. Calling the police if you feel like you are in danger or your safety is threatened

Pro tip for landlords: If your tenants are accusing you of harassment, you will benefit from following these same tips. Take detailed notes of all your interactions. Use software designed for landlords to keep excellent records. Ask for a witness to join you and even record tenant interactions. Understand the law and know what qualifies for a legal eviction. Work with an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state and city.

Some uninformed renters will be quick to assume they are being harassed when a landlord is actually performing normal rental management business.

Here are some examples of what is not considered harassment:

  • Routine Inspections with proper notice
  • Entering your property in the case of an emergency, like a gas leak or flood
  • Routine Drive By Inspections 
  • Installing outdoor security cameras for tenant and property safety
  • Calling you regularly to collect past due rent
  • Sending you notices to rectify a lease violation
  • Giving you an eviction notice for failure to pay rent or for other lease violations
  • Raising the rent to match market rates and providing proper notice
  • Collecting money for property damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear
  • Not repairing a washing machine that is owned by the tenant

Landlord Retaliation

There are additional protections for tenants against landlord retaliation. If a renter has asserted his rights to stand up against harassment or filed a complaint against a landlord who isn’t making repairs, most states consider any retaliation from a landlord in response to these actions as illegal.

Nolo provides a good explanation of State Laws Against Landlord Retaliation :

In almost all states, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against you for acting within your legal rights–for example, if you have:

  • complained to a building inspector, fire department, health inspector, or other governmental agency about unsafe or illegal living conditions

  • exercised your First Amendment rights to assemble and present your views collectively, as in joining or organizing a tenant union, or

  • availed yourself of self-help strategies allowed by your state or local law, such as deducting money from the rent and using it to fix defects in the rental unit, or even withholding the rent entirely for an uninhabitable unit.

It’s important to understand that the antiretaliation laws will shield you only for those activities that are mentioned in your state’s statute. Not all states protect tenants for all three types of actions mentioned above. To see what’s covered,  see your State Laws Prohibiting Landlord Retaliation. For example, in Washington, DC, a tenant who circulates a petition demanding better services cannot be retaliated against; but that same activity would not be protected in Florida, since “exercise of a legal right” isn’t included in Florida’s statute. 


Also, keep in mind that eight states—Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—do not have statutes or court decisions protecting tenants against retaliation. – https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter11-1.html

Landlords and property managers are required to provide a safe and secure living situation for their renters.  Refusing to make repairs, intimidating your tenants, or retaliating against a tenant complaint is against rental housing regulations and will negatively effect a renter’s experience living on your property.  If a renter feels threatened living on your property or feels like you are treating them unfairly, they may be within their rights to file a complaint and work with an attorney to take you to court of damages. Housing providers need to be familiar with all landlord-tenant laws and any tenant protections in your area in order to best protect yourself from unintentionally harassing a tenant.

Want to learn more? Discover some examples of landlord harassment cases where a tenant was award damages for Outrageous Landlord Conduct, as reported by Tobener Law Center of San Fransisco.

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About the Author

About the Author: Kaycee manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct, bringing a unique perspective to the world of property management and proudly shares industry news, products, and trends within the community. .

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There Are 26 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Angeles Placer says:

    There are other types of harassment: stealing legal documents, clothes, shoes, jewelry, family pictures, property titles, passports, social security cards, birth certificates, disabling the alarm system by hacking the e-mail account, disabling the Wifi in the tenant´s computer.

    • Andy says:

      Im 29, handicap and disabled with p.t.s.d…..my Landlord has shut of my cable, wifi, hot water and baricaded my windows and put a lock on my fridge….his moms stealing my mail and medication. The 2nd exit(emergency exit) has been Randomly Blocked..with a huge wall that wasnt there when moving in, he constantly calls cops and says i am threatening to kill him..he was 3 vicious doggs that bite right outside my door? What can i do?

      • Yikes, this sounds like a very serious situation. I would reach out to your local housing authority to report the situation and any code violations. If your safety is threatened, I suggest contacting your police department. It might be time to find a new housing solution, but make sure to document all your interactions with your landlord and speak with a local attorney about your options.

      • sandy says:

        MOVE? if you don’t like it there pay your rent and utilities and give notice and leave. I would suspect they would let you leave without giving notice

    • Sheri says:

      Terrible andbi thought we got screwed over I’m sorry you where violated I’m sure you didn’t deserve that

  2. Rudyard Kipling says:

    So what if the land lord comes over anytime he wants with no notice at times like 7 AM and 9 PM randomly. Never fixes anything that you tell him is wrong until the city makes him do it (without you calling the city) tries to make you pay for his citations when youve told him long before of the problems at hand. And verbally threatens you that he has money and does not care how much it cost’s so long as he can find a way to have some criminal charges filed against you of any kind even if he has to hire someone to do something. Took every ounce of my being not to say anything back or snap his jaw. Landlord is (name removed for privacy) in Louisville KY. he is also a child doctor with an office on Broadway. I can look over his annoyances and ignorance. but I am not paying his fines that are his fault. I have children which he also disrespects. This man is a worthless human being. I am moving On my own to get away from this man. I do not take kindly to threats. I have not argued with him or nothing I just bite my tongue.

    • Nathan says:

      Hey Rudyard, It sounds like you and your landlord really don’t get along. The question I would ask myself if I were you is: Is it worth continuing to live here, or would I be happier somewhere else?

      • sandy says:

        I never understood why people stay in these “horrible” situations. JUST MOVE.

        • Jenny Smith says:

          Sandy, you are sooooo incredibly stupid…or you are a stupid landlord… have you ever thought (or do you gave a working brain?) that maybe some people can’t just AFFORD to get up and move?! God, you’re an idiot. Seriously. NOT everybody has thousands of dollars for moving costs, deposit, first month/last month…etc… you sound like a walking imbecile.

          • Cindy says:

            Jenny you sound like the ignorant one. If your housing situation is terrible….move, just like Sandy said. Just like any other situation in life…if you hate your boss…. guess what, find a new job….you hate the college you attend….guess what find a new one. You hate the cold…guess what find a new state to move to. Life is to short, if your situation is making you miserable FIX it by changing it!

        • Annette says:

          I’ll make it perfectly clear for you Sandy. With all due respect if a person does not have the 3 m’s (money, method & means) you are basically stuck in a really bad, miserable situation that you would give anything to get out of.

  3. Myna says:

    I rent from Moss and Company a Sherman Oaks management company. These people have engaged almost everything on your list. Retaliated because I complained about a noisy neighbor. Sent three day notices for banging cabinets and even threw my newspaper away before I could pick it up in front of the building.
    They took forever to fix anything in my unit.
    But I’m not moving. Thus is my home and I want the truth to be heard.

  4. Tricey says:

    Is there a Maryland lawyer available?

  5. Kimberly Ritter says:

    I have been living in this apartment for 12 years. Since the beginning, plumbing has always been an issue. Their are only four units, but it seems mine seems to be the worst. Three years ago, my bathroom ceiling fell on me. It was so extensive, emergency services were called in. Our bathroom was gutted down to the studs. We showered outside for two weeks. In that two week time frame, I received a notice in the mail that our rent had been raised an additional $50.(the nerve) That ended up being a two month process. Two nights ago I noticed a puddle on my bedroom closet floor. It had been leaking from the ceiling, that we had a problem with in the past. Two pairs of shoes have puddles of water in them. The one pair are Alexander McQueen’s, and very expensive. I text her 3 times about being reimbursed for my personal property being destroyed. And she will not respond. Don’t even get me started on the rat problem. One died on my kitchen floor about 3 weeks ago. When I sent her a picture, she replied that she knows what a rat looks like. One year we were so infested, they were sleeping in my underwear drawer, down to my bajama drawer. I literally have been crying every day over how frustrating, angry, and helpless I feel. I’ve been taking prescription drugs, to calm my nerves. Please, please help me with this problem before I have a nervous breakdown because over it. Please call me, versus email. It’s hard for me to retrieve them. (818) 371-5447. Thank you so much.

  6. Lina says:

    I was given a 60 day notice to vacate and have been trying to find a new place to live and packing. Meanwhile my landlord keeps texting me when I can move out. I’ve informed her I have the 60 days and do not have anywhere to move to yet. She keeps demanding that I let realtors show the house and have an open house. I gave her hours that we would allow these but I did not want her or anyone to enter when we are not home and she is threatening eviction. I let her know that I have tenant rights and I have 60 days legally to be in the house. She constantly keep texting me and I informed her I was feeling harass, she doesn’t care. What would my recourse be.

    • Hi Lina, sorry to hear about your stressful situation. In most cases, a landlord can enter the property at anytime as long as they give you proper notice before hand. They do not need to have your permission, nor can you require to be present when they are there. The fact that your landlord is trying to work with you to find a time for the realtor to come over while you are available is a courtesy of hers, not something she has to do at all. If you still do not have a place to move after the 60 days are up and you remain at the property, she can move forward with an eviction. I would advise sticking to the move out date listed on the 60 days notice and being more flexible with the showings so you don’t end on bad terms. She is going to be your future landlord reference after-all.

    • Jenny Smith says:

      Get an attorney & sue her happy ass! Don’t tell me, she’s Persian….!

  7. Hannah Alonzo says:

    Hi,

    I’m a single woman renting a room in a house that my land lord does not occupy. Her mother actually owns the house and is in hospice. I signed a rental agreement (not a lease) that stipulates that the land lords can come and go at will. Upon signing the agreement I expressed concern and she told me that her husband will only come over to drop off the mail occasionally and they will let me know when they are coming. It’s been about a year and her husband comes over multiple times a week and sometimes when I’m home and showering. One Saturday morning at 8am he was outside of my bedroom vacuuming. I asked him to give me notice when he is coming over and he argued that the rental agreement gives him a right to come over whenever he wants.

    He has also came over with a pile of clothing he wanted to give me and try on which made me very uncomfortable. I began avoiding him and responding shortly to his oversharing e-mails and he began to leave aggressive post it notes in the house about not touching the timer on the house. He has the whole house on a timer so that the lights come on and off at certain times and sometimes its so dark that I can’t see in the house. I’ve never touched a timer but I have turned on a light that didn’t come on automatically in my living room . It takes 6 locks to get into the house which is hard to keep track of and I asked for copies of the keys in case and the landlord refused to let me get copies.

    They are now telling me that I am not mindful of the placement of my keys when in truth I’ve had 4 different key rings break and two keys fell off twice requiring that they let me into the building.

    Another issue is that they are fabricating problems. Accusing me of leaving my floor heater on in my room when I am not home and claiming that they can hear it on and it’s a safety hazard . I tested it , and you cannot hear my floor heater from outside of the room. He does have a key to my room. The are claiming that I left the stove on for 3 days which I did not among other things.

    Also, are not allowing my to use central heat and I barely use the floor heater but they are blaming me for a 25 % increase in the power bill. The tone that my land lord uses in her e-mails are aggressive . She has continues to insult me and tell me that I am not a good “fit” for the house and to feel free and give my notice despite my attempts to appease her demands.

    I realize that some things she listed are a safety issue but #1 I can prove that they are in the house all the time without telling me not just for routine inspection and #2 that the husband leaves aggressive notes. I had a housemate for a while that forwarded me his emails by which he was unhappy with the notes and uncomfortable feelings they cause.

    Lastly, rent is due on the 1st of every month but the land lord requires that I place it in a and unlocked mailbox downstairs the night before the first so that her husband can pick it up as early as 4 am. Many times my pay period falls on the 1st of the month and I cannot make it to the bank before 4 am and so I ask that I can pay it around 6pm because I can make it to the bank after work and they continue to tell me that I am not allowed to do that.

    Please help.

  8. Hannah Alonzo says:

    I forgot to add that they are stating that I am continuously giving me “discounted rates” for living there.

  9. AJ says:

    I think I am being harassed because I pay rent at a reduced price for my birthday month and they “forgot”. I reminded them via 2 calls and 2 visits over 3 weeks reviewing my lease. So we agreed to do it the month after and now they are saying I still need to pay the remainder even though I am not suppose to. Now they posted a pay or eviction in 1 week.

  10. leo says:

    I have a lease agreement and have put several thousand dollars down on a lease to buy
    and have been paying 1500.00 a month with the option to buy if I was to come up with a deposit of 50.000.00 within two years
    I’m an artist and painted a mural on the building for advertisement
    the code enforcement asked me to get a permit
    while there at code enforcement, the landlord painted over it
    also, he sold me a large truck he used for storage and asked me to let him store his stuff in it for a yr
    then sold it to me with the same agreement to let me store my stuff in it for one yr
    then when the lease agreement got close to expiration he said I will have to move it or else it will be towed
    the license branch says even though I have proof of payments he needs to give them a lien transfer
    but he hasn’t done this
    he has entered into the premises many times while I’m away and his wife
    they watch me and then one follows me while the other spies on me (witnesses)
    I have had to talk with him in the parking lot many times for over an hour at dark hours
    he has tried to destroy me with stress
    I have a license as a sign shop here and have painted murals on many buildings
    and was coming back with papers from code enforcement when he painted over it
    I started to paint it again and he came back in the early hours of the morning and painted over it again I have recordings of him and me talking about it
    the code enforcement said he was the one who turned me in
    I paid him money down and he first signed the agreement with his LLC name
    then the city water works made him sign his name so could get water service
    then when I had a notary republic over during a payment I asked him if he would mind if the contract was notarized
    he did it with great complaining saying no one has ever not trusted his word before
    and has since harassed me by text and phone calls
    he has several vehicles and uses them to patrol my business
    it has turned into a nightmare
    on the agreement he stated i have all responsibility for property and building

  11. Amy Bever says:

    My landlord required my lease renewal by the end of January when our lease isn’t up until June. Because I ignored it, they are now emailing me every three days to show our apartment to prospective tenants with only 24 hour notice. I have been told it is too late to sign a new lease. Now I am expected to allow complete strangers looking at my bras hanging up in my closet and casing my garage that houses many items worth stealing! Nowhere in my current lease does it discuss showing my apartment, only for inspections, repairs and the like. Not sure what to do at this point, I can’t imagine going through this for almost four more months!

  12. Lynn C says:

    From day one, I have had issues with my landlord. No, I can’t afford to move, so don’t bother telling me to move.
    I moved in with my family 2-1/2 years ago. A week after moving in, it poured rain one day and that’s how I found out that it rained in my bedroom. Four months later, he decides to fix the leak. Also, none of the windows open & there are bars on some of them so there is no escape route in case of fire.
    Then if my rent is late by 1 day (due on the 15th, paid on the 16th) , I am threatened with eviction even though I have a 5 day grace period. AC broke down in bedroom, told him for 10 months it needed replacement. Nothing… Then the AC in the living room broke down and it took 2 months & a threat to withhold rent before he replaced both AC units. Refrigerator broke, and I asked for a new one and was threatened with eviction so I just bought my own. Nothing gets fixed unless the city fines him for it and it’s never fixed by licensed contractors.
    NOW, he has been parked outside my house for a month straight, 6 days a week, staring at the house. Not doing any work, just sitting there staring, which makes me uncomfortable. Plus, if he’s here & we go sit outside, he comes over and harasses us. “Walk your dogs like everyone else does.” We have had our dogs since day one and now all of a sudden it’s a problem letting our dogs in the yard even though we clean up after them. This has happened 5 times in the last month that he’s been sitting out there. I have also just found out that the house I am renting is not zoned as residential but as an automotive business.
    What can I do? I know I am going to be forced to move by the city sooner or later because they have already started fining him for me being here or so he claims.

  13. Wendilynne says:

    My landlord gave me a notice today saying I have broke two of the rules in the rental agreement. No where on my R.A. does it say not to smoke in my house. He also said that I had someone else “living” at my place. My boyfriend stays over quite a bit but he doesn’t live with me. 4 days a week tops, he stays the night but he works all day. He does have his own place. My landlord is constantly harassing my boyfriend about him being there. My landlord is also my dad. He’s pissed off because he can’t stand my boyfriend but I am 48 years old. My dad is 73. My R.A. doesn’t say I can’t have my boyfriend stay over.

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