In the world of property management, the relationship between the tenant and the owner is not always pleasant.
There can be a handful of instances of landlord harassment or even tenant harassment.
Both of these can count as a violation of the lease agreement, and will likely lead to legal action.
In this guide, we will be focussing specifically on examples of landlord harassment, as well as things that can be done to deter the harassment.
If you want to learn about tenant harassment, make sure to visit DoorLoop's Full Guide On Tenant Harassment.
To get started, let's go over what landlord harassment is defined as.
What Is Landlord Harassment?
Landlord harassment is known as any aggressive technique used by the landlord to scare or intimidate the tenant. By doing this, the landlord is directly infringing upon the tenant's right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property.
This could include a number of different actions, which we will discuss later in the guide. Most of them, however, have the goal of forcing the tenant to move from the rental unit or forcing them to not pursue legal action.
But, in order for a landlord to be guilty of tenant harassment, they must engage in continuous harassment. This means that one example of bad behavior will typically not convince a court that the landlord is guilty. To be considered guilty in court, the landlord must display a pattern of this behavior and the tenant must also have a way to prove it.
Now that we know what landlord harassment is, it can still be difficult to pinpoint exactly what counts and what doesn't count as harassment. Since the line can be thin at times, it is important to have some ideas of what can be considered landlord harassment. In the next two sections, we will be going over examples of landlord harassment as well as examples of things that are not landlord harassment.
Examples Of Landlord Harassment
Below, we have compiled a list of examples of what landlord harassment can mean. However, this list is not exhaustive, and there are many other examples that can count.
Shutting Off Utilities
When a landlord wants to force a tenant out of a rental property, they may resort to shutting off the utility services. This could include gas, electricity, water, or any other utilities on the property. In many states, this is considered a self-help eviction or landlord retaliation. And, also in many states, it is completely illegal.
If you want to learn more about self-help evictions, or other eviction laws, make sure to visit DoorLoop's Laws Page. There, you can find all eviction laws and landlord-tenant laws for your specific state.
Landlords are typically required to give proper notice to their tenants if they plan on entering the property. If they do not give this notice, then they do not have legal access to enter the property.
If a landlord does enter the tenant's unit without notice, especially more than once, it is considered harassment.
Another form of landlord harassment is if they refuse to provide necessary repairs or maintenance. Doing this can be a form of forcing the tenant to vacate the property. Thus, it can be considered a self-help eviction which, again, is completely illegal. This is especially true if the tenants pay rent consistently and have not missed a single rent payment.
Changing The Locks
In an effort to force the tenant out of the property, the landlord may change the locks to the property. When a landlord does this, they are prohibiting the tenant from entering the property, which is another form of self-help eviction.
Spontaneously Raising Rent
In most states, landlords are required to give proper notice of at least 30 days when they are raising the tenant's rent. When landlords raise rent without notice, or too often, it can be with the intention to harass tenants.
One of the worst ways that a tenant can be harassed by the landlord is personally. This means in the form of physically threatening remarks, sexual harassment, verbal harassment, or anything else related to the tenant personally.
When a landlord does this, not only are they violating the rental agreement, they are breaking the law. This kind of behavior typically warrants legal action, even if the tenant violates the lease agreement in a different way.
So, now that we know some of the examples of landlord harassment, let's go over some examples of things that are not landlord harassment.
What Is NOT Considered Landlord Harassment
In this section, we will be going over some of the things that the landlord can do that are not considered harassment.
Entering Property In Emergency
The first example on the list is when a landlord must enter the property in case of an emergency. In these cases, the landlord does not have to provide notice and can go ahead and enter the property.
One example of this is if the fire alarm goes off in the property. If the landlord notices, they have reason to believe that there could be a fire in the property and can enter to see if there is anything wrong.
Although this was included in the previous list, raising rent is actually permitted as long as proper notice is provided. If the landlord gives the proper notice that rent is going to be raised, they can raise it a certain percentage. In most states, this notice is of about 30 days. Anything less than that can be considered illegal and thus, harassment.
Filing A Legal Eviction
Another example of something a landlord can do that is not considered harassment is file a legal eviction. This eviction can be related to the tenant's rent payment, illegal activity, tenant harassment, or anything else that warrants an eviction.
It is important to note that although evictions are legal, it is important to do everything legally. If not, there can be legal trouble throughout the process of the eviction.
Changing Locks Legally
Although we mentioned that changing the locks of the property is illegal, there are some cases where it is allowed. One common example is in the case of domestic violence. When there is a case of domestic violence on record, it is in the landlord's interest to change the locks.
By doing so, they are making sure that the violator does not have access to the property. This is usually allowed and even encouraged by the current tenants.
So, now that we know about some examples of harassment and examples of what is not harassment, let's quickly go over some of the things tenants can do to prevent or stop this behavior.
How To Stop Landlord Harassment
If a tenant is falling victim to landlord harassment, it is important that they know what to do. Below, we have provided some steps to take as a tenant to stop the landlord's behavior.
Ever since the first incident of harassment, everything should be documented. This includes every communication, meeting, inspection, and anything else that regarded the landlord. In these documents, you should include the date, time, and nature of the incident.
By doing this, you are essentially building a case against the landlord in case of a legal dispute, which is discussed below.
File A Complaint
Once the tenant has a handful of incidents documented, they can file a formal complaint. Once a complaint is filed, the landlord will be investigated and the government agency will determine if harassment had occurred.
If the landlord is found guilty, they will probably face some legal consequences. Although every jurisdiction is different, these consequences typically mean paying a fine for damages.
Ask To Legally Break The Lease
Before moving on to legal action, it may be a good idea to ask the landlord to break the lease. This offer is typically accepted as the landlord usually harasses the tenant to get them out of the property.
It is important to note, however, that the tenant should not face a financial loss here. If the tenant is trying to break the lease due to harassment, they should not have to pay any extra fines or anything to do so. If the landlord is demanding payment, they can move on to the last step.
Seek Legal Help
If all else fails, the tenant can find legal help. This means hiring a lawyer or an attorney to represent them in a lawsuit. Typically, this would be the last stage as the landlord will be legally obligated to take action if found guilty.
If the tenant wins the case, the landlord will most likely be forced to pay a large sum of money, and maybe even cover the tenant's legal fees and attorney's fees.