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What is Landlord Harassment?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Landlord harassment is the creation of hostile conditions on a rental property by a landlord, usually with the goal of forcing the tenant to leave. This activity is most commonly seen when a landlord does not want to go through the process of evicting a tenant, or faces legal barriers to eviction in a situation where there is no cause to eject a tenant. It is a crime, and tenants can receive assistance from police officers as well as tenants' rights organizations if they experience harassment from their landlords.

A number of activities can be part of landlord harassment. Refusing to maintain a property and doing things like shutting utilities off to make it unpleasant can be one component. Landlords may stop paying for garbage collection, for example, or cancel a maintenance service. Basic maintenance for safety is a legal obligation and a rental contract may also include specific clauses mandating aesthetic maintenance, such as hiring a gardening service to keep the grounds in good condition.

Landlords can also threaten their tenants. Landlord harassment may include abusive and threatening letters, phone calls, Internet contacts, or personal conversations. Unauthorized entry can be another element of the situation. By law, landlords can only enter a property with notice or under an emergency situation. Frequent or illegal entry can be landlord harassment; for example, insisting on entrance every day without any actual need to do so can be intimidating in addition to annoying for tenants. The harassment may escalate into physical attacks on tenants or their property as well.

If people experience landlord harassment, they should keep detailed documentation. It is a good idea to apprise neighbors of the situation, and it can be helpful to ask them if they would be willing to serve as witnesses. Tenants should preserve any threatening or harassing communications, document damage and injuries with photos, and keep a log of interactions with the landlord. It is important to avoid contributing to an escalation of the behavior by remaining calm in interactions with the landlord.

Tenants can start with a firm request to stop, bringing the landlord's attentions to the terms of the rental agreement or lease or bringing up legal issues such as the right to 24 hours notice before non-emergency entry. If this is not effective, the tenant can contact police for assistance. It may also be helpful to request legal help from a community service organization. Sometimes, the best resolution to landlord harassment is to move, but it may be possible to find a home in a similar setting with comparable rent through community assistance.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon994487 — On Feb 12, 2016

Landlord here. This rant is long. For good tenants, I sympathize with your troubles. All others, I hope you get everything coming to you. I understand that there are terrible slum lords out there, but I have quickly begun to understand why they turn into a monster from a basically nice human. In 18 months' time, I have had three tenants in a nice three bedroom duplex that I lived in for seven years. The first tenants, a family with good credit and references, bailed with no notice after 2 1/2 months and no forwarding address. Luckily they didn't trash the place, but I had to pay the mortgage and half of the mortgage, where I live with my husband.

Winter is a terrible time to find tenants and it financially sucked.

The next tenants wanted a six month lease. Fine. I need income to pay the mortgage. They called me for absolutely everything imaginable that was "broke". I couldn't even rest to heal from a surgery I had because they couldn't find a used fridge on their own after the compressor blew. I had to do it for them. Still overall, basically nice tenants and they didn't trash the place. They moved out of state.

So I finally find prospective tenants that gave me a credit report, 2 landlord references and I even drove by their current address to see if it was trashed, etc. All Looked good. These people had two very disabled girls and I felt bad for them. Mistake number one.

They signed the lease with a pet agreement and extra for the security. For the life of me, I cannot understand how two cats, two dogs, one bearded dragon and one little corn snake, turned into a hellhole of 3 dogs, 18 cats, 45-70 (?) bearded dragons, a literal egg hatchery of various chicks/birds all in large bins in the basement and dozens of other birds etc. -- all through the house. Tons of different birds outside the house as well. The whole family lives in one bedroom. Every other room is filled completely with animals.

I gave my 24-hour notice for a home inspection because of a number of legit reasons, including 24/7 lights on in every room and cops calling me with noise complaints. The old neighbor was reluctant to call so his daughters and niece did as they were screaming all night and he didn't sleep. Fast forward to now.

They stole my electric bill info and changed contact information without my knowledge. This was partly the electric company's fault and my mail stopped forwarding at one year and I never knew. They ran up $3500 in six months on my account. They lied to the electric company, and after multiple frustrating phone calls and correspondence, I have it now retroactively billed to them. This event alone nearly caused a stroke. The night I inspected the place, Child Protective Services also showed up. I didn't expect it and really tried being as patient and professional as possible. In the middle of this smelly, trashed house due to his "repairs" and zoo atmosphere, he tried to make me look bad by saying there is lead paint and he tested it. They gutted and flipped my house when I bought it. Fat chance.

Needless to say, I got angry after leaving. Very angry. I offered numbers to help them unload the animals. The cops and I called SPCA, but got no real help there. Zoning called about the insane amount of junk all over the property. I gave him 12 days to clean it up. He said it was unreasonable and actually compared himself to Anne Frank, you know, fear and oppression because he has to follow the lease and not live in a concentration camp. Good grief!

So to end this tragic tale, they were given an eviction notice and promised to pay rent soon. Never happened. Now they owe me two months of rent and late fees, with no intention of paying and had the nerve to be upset when I had the electricity shut off in my name. They have collected more junk around the property and when I sent a simple text asking if they left yet, I got a response saying I'm harassing them and to contact their lawyer. Harassing? No cursing, not on property except to post eviction notice and no phone calls to them. Literally maybe one or two text messages to remind them of the rent due. What started as a way to keep my house and not foreclose, has turned into a nightmare. Screw it. Short sell, foreclose? I just don't care anymore. I will never ever, rent to anyone again. I have aged 20 years with this landlord attempt.

I now realize why some landlords are horrible people. I can't blame them.

By anon994070 — On Jan 11, 2016

My partner and I live in a condo we leased about 2 1/2 years ago from a foreign man who owns a business locally and his wife also has a business. We are both disabled and have health issues and he was made aware of this when we moved in.

It has been awful trying to get him to fix anything and the place was left filthy when we first moved in and it took months to get it up to our standards of clean. After our first year of tenancy, he had a rep from a realty contact us instead of calling us directly to say he was selling the property! We persuaded him to extend our lease as I was in a lawsuit and money was so tight we did not have the money to move. He did not have buyers, just an old tenant who had worked for them wanting to move back in, it turned out.

The second year was a nightmare. He is a very unbalanced man and has no respect for women at all, and we had an incident with the rent check which had been dropped off in the mail slot at their business as he does not like us to come in while he is open to speak of any problems. So I tried to drop off the rent, but he had taped door shut, so I bought tape and taped it to the front door and left a message on his business voicemail that I had left it taped to door. He threw it away, called complaining where was the rent and I had to pay a $45 stop payment charge.

We've suffered through pests, a hole in the front door, leaks in ceiling that became huge holes that dripped constantly and an A/C that would not cool for two summers until finally I withheld partial rent. He freaked out and threatened us that he would evict us if we did not pay the whole amount. My partner finally goaded me into paying, but I knew my rights and hated to give in. It took almost two months to get the A/C fixed and then he tried to say we owed half of anything that broke in the condo. He is crazy.

Also, he is actively trying to sell the condo and harassed and threatened us constantly that if we did not cooperate he would not renew our lease. He had an open house for a solid week and did not even let us know that for the six days of it, nobody was scheduled to come look. This guy is a horrible landlord.

I had another rent payment go missing in August, 2015. Granted the July rent was two partials. It was postmarked it hit Aug. 2, but he claimed he never received it and stated it finally showed up on August 22. He is jerking us around and we had to pay another stop payment. When we were hosting and trying to help him sell the condo, he offered us $900 cash and all we had to do was have the place clean and allow people to see it, which we did, as we were threatened if we did not he would not renew the lease.

So the lease runs out. We are over the crazy landlord and he shows up in late November stating that he is going to bring by a lease and drop it off and raise the rent $35 a month when electric wires and lights have still not been put up from all the holes in ceiling and leaks.

We do not want to sign another lease. Would you? So the lease never shows and I keep paying regular rent and am not going to pay anymore until all repairs are done. I mailed in the January 2016 check and I got a text last week that he has not received and he needs to come by to talk with us. I told him check was mailed and it should be there and asked him the nature of his visit. He refused to say and stated he would keep us posted on receipt of the rent and I heard nothing until my neighbors said that he has been by our condo three or four times, beating the crap out of the door for 5-10 minutes at a time, then leaves and comes back 45 minutes to one hour later and starts up again. No call. No text. No idea why or if he received check. Is this harassment or what?

By anon975489 — On Oct 27, 2014

Most states have renter rights laws. Get a copy of it and keep record of activity. If they are in the apartment without notice, call the police because it is trespassing. Get social services involved if you're elderly. This alone will scare the crap out of landlords in the wrong.

By anon951851 — On May 18, 2014

My landlord has started to harass my wife and I frequently, after we've lived here for over three years. His worst threat came yesterday when he showed up without notice, walked into the apartment and made threats against my wife and I, claiming he is calling the health department and Adult Protective Services. He has made no attempt to contact us in writing about conditions of the house, nor has he said anything other than where is my rent in the three years we've been here. Although we may have to pay him twice a month, the rent does get paid and if he did not want us here, he could refuse to accept payments but does every month, and has taken a payment this month.

When he was here, he used vulgar language, had a hammer in his hand that he was wildly swinging around while yelling at us. We told him five times to please put down the hammer and it took the maintenance man to get the hammer from him. The maintenance man also had to advise the landlord he is not allowed in the bedrooms, since he wanted the bedroom door opened. He also has cut off the water to the bathtub, which is the only one in the house, preventing my wife from getting ready for work. I have contacted legal aid and am trying to get legal advice and help from a lawyer. Is there anything else I can do to help myself to protect myself from this verbally abusive man?

By anon949700 — On May 06, 2014

My mom has lived in her apartment for 10 years with no agreement. She always pays her rent. Now an illegal took over management and only wants Hispanic people living there. There was a note on her door to move out. She is 83 and has moderate Alzheimer's, but can't live alone. The neighbors have slashed her car tires and stolen all of her belongings in her storage. She can't afford to move or move into a facility.

By anon947124 — On Apr 24, 2014

The landowner where I'm currently staying is horrid. How does one sue a landlord for harassment. He enters my home without notice daily, and has an abusive-mouthed son.

I live with my elderly godfather, and this place is crappy. No repairs were done in 20 years. If I didn't push for some changes, there would still be a metal cabinet in the hall like there was 12 years ago!

By anon943949 — On Apr 04, 2014

My landlord left all her belongings in my garage. The lease says I'm renting the home, but she has just opened the door two times and let herself in. She wants to come without a 24 hour written notice to get her clothes from garage. She refuses to get her stuff out and parks outside for hours watching the house.

I have asked her to get things out of garage, but she wants to charge me 150 dollars more rent to use the garage, which has been made into an extra bedroom. She makes harassing remarks to my daughter about her not working and having two kids at the age of 22 (my daughter is disabled). She goes to my job and makes harassing remarks, and she tells me she can go sleep in their whenever she wants and only meant for me to be a roommate.

By anon930360 — On Feb 04, 2014

Our landlord is harassing us and telling us our apartment smells like cat and dog pee and I pay my rent on time. They shut off the water without giving us any notice and they are putting notices on the door that they have to do a walk through to see if our apartment is clean. Our apartment is clean and does not smell like dog or cat pee. Our air-conditioner went out on a Thursday and they couldn't fix it till Monday. Our front door needs to be fixed and it's not fixed yet.

By anon336935 — On Jun 01, 2013

Sometimes it's not easy for a tenant to move. That's what the landlord wants for whatever reason and this costs a lot of money.

I am changing "landlord" to "landowner" because "lord" is too strong a word to give to someone who tries to make the lives of tenants hell just for power.

Many tenants are elderly and on fixed incomes, or are people with disabilities who do not have the luxury to move to get away from harassing, intimidating landowners.

The vulnerable are the ones mostly singled out and harassed by landowners who are rarely held accountable or responsible for the suffering they cause tenants, they think they are above the law and can do what they want just because of their status, this is wrong and appalling behavior, and it needs to be stopped, not overlooked.

By anon296226 — On Oct 10, 2012

It's sad how I'm being harassed by my landlord. He's done about five or six of the things on the list in the article to me, and the housing court judge from the Bronx said it's not harassment.

I have letters from him, and one even says his phone tells him when I'm not home. Tell me what that is! And there's no heat in the winter!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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