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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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Hello, I am having a problem with the property I am leasing.

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Hello, I am having a problem with the property I am leasing. I have a neighbor whose son is terrorizing everyone. My neighbor and I live in the same building (it's a duplex of sorts) and his son is not on the lease. A few years ago my daughter and I had to be escorted out of the building by the SWAT team because the son was high and they believed he was in possesion of a gun. He has been in and out of jail, and yells and screams in a drug addled haze several times a week. I had a good relationship with his dad, and we didn't have any problems until the son moved back in. I have called my landlord and begged him to do something about it because my 9 year old daughter is living in fear ( as am I ) and I have daily panic attacks. My neighbors are willing to help in any way as they too are victims of his scary behavior and they also believe he is stealing items out of their cars. One of my neighbors put up a fence because of him, and have also called my landlord to complain. My landlord (for lack of a better word) is a wimp and doesn't appear to want confrontation. We are both on a month to month lease so I don't see what the problem is. Besides moving, what can I do? Please help!
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

I am afraid under PA law, the landlord is not generally the insurer of the safety of the tenants. That is the general premise that the courts start off with. However, a lease, even a month to month lease, gives you the right to peaceable use and enjoyment of your premises. If this use and enjoyment is being interfered with by the neighbor's violations of the terms of the lease (by having a person not on the lease living there), then you need to start by giving written notice to the landlord that he is in breach of the lease and as such you would seek to sue for breach and all costs of moving if he fails to cure the breach and you have to terminate your month to month lease based on that ground.

The problem is that as a month to month tenant he can terminate your tenancy with 30 day notice for no reason at all, so if you complain in writing that this is a breach of your lease guaranteeing peaceable use and enjoyment of the premises, he can give you an eviction/termination notice and then you have to sue for retaliatory eviction based on him evicting you for exercising your rights as a tenant.

The other option is that if the son is creating a nuisance, you could sue the other tenant for the nuisance and seek to get a restraining order forbidding the son, who is not on the lease, from being on the premises.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Paul! That helps clarify things for me, but now that I think about it, we have NO lease. The last one I signed was 7 years ago, and I'm pretty sure my neighbor doesn't have one either. I just assumed that after the lease was up, we were automatically on a month to month basis. I recently asked for a new lease, as I am enrolling my daughter in public school ( she is currently attending a private Catholic school) but maybe I shouldn't sign one as I may be in an insane asylum before that. I thought about a PFA, but I'm not sure how I can produce the evidence . Can I record his antics on my phone or does that violate right to privacy or something? How about a petition from all the neighbors to make the landlord kick out the crackhead? Also, can I withhold rent? If I have to move I'll need the $$$$$

Thank you for your response and additional information.

You do have a lease, an oral one at this point. You are a tenant at sufferance month to month, but as long as the landlord is accepting rent you have a right to peaceable use and enjoyment of the premises. However, as I said, he can evict you with 30 day notice for no reason at all.

You can record the activities, that is not against the law as long as they are visible and audible from a location where you have a legal right to be.

The petition from the neighbors may work, but if the landlord has no guts then who knows.

You could withhold rent, but again, the landlord can also evict you with 30 day notice and you will still have to go to court and allege the landlord was the one who breached your lease and sue for the cost of moving.

The suit against the neighbor for nuisance and seeking the restraining order might be the best course of action for you right now other than calling the police for the neighbor disturbing your peace every time the son cuts up.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Paul. If the landlord doesn't have the balls to evict this guy, I'm pretty sure he's not going to go through the process with me. Sigh. You are wonderful. I will definitely recomment this site to all my friends. Have a great day!


Thank you very much.

You are right about your landlord by the way, unless the landlord does not feel threatened by you like he feels threatened by the neighbor and his son.

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