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How to Tell if You Landlord is Illegally Harassing You

A landlord is illegally harassing you if they threaten you, overcharge you, withhold repairs or utilities, deliberately cause construction related problems, locks you out or contacts you at your place of employment.

Most states have specific laws in place that define landlord harassment and tell you what to do if it's happening. These were mostly meant to protect people living in gentrifying neighborhoods whose landlords want to get them to leave - that's why you'll find the most detailed laws in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.

In New York, your landlord can only try two times a year to get you to accept a buyout - any more and it's harassment.

Signs that you're being harassed

Wondering if your landlord is illegally harassing you? If they're doing any of the below things, they probably are. You can can call the cops, get a restraining order or an injunctive order, or sue your landlord.

Entering a unit without warning: Most states have laws on the books that prevent your landlord from doing this, so if you catch them in your apartment without permission - and without an emergency - then they're in the wrong.

Shutting off utilities or any other kind of illegal eviction: Any action that is clearly intended to prevent you from living in your rental is an illegal eviction, which comes with fines, damages and even jail time in some states.

Refusing to make necessary repairs: If this happens then you can take the standard steps for getting your landlord to make repairs, and if they don't then it could be interpreted as retaliation (also illegal).

Lots of disruptive construction: If construction work makes your building unlivable then your landlord is violating the warranty of habitability in your state, but what can do you if you don't want to leave? You can band together with other tenants to get a rent reduction or file a lawsuit.

Verbal, physical or sexual harassment: Obviously, any kind of physical or verbal actions intended to try and get you out is illegal, and in this case you can call the cops.

The most common reason for landlord harassment is that your landlord wants to in some way get more money. They want to take it out of rent stabilization or control programs, renovate it, or sell the building.

Next steps

This is a tough spot to be in for any tenant, so make sure to start a conversation with other people in your building, read up on all the laws and be prepared to sue your landlord for damages.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.