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Landlord Harassment Laws

Landlord harassment occurs when a landlord or landlord’s agent creates unpleasant conditions for a tenant in order to get him/her to willingly abandon a rental contract. Landlords often choose this strategy because it helps to cut down on legal expenses and other problems that could arise from evicting tenants. In certain areas, the law imposes specific legal penalties against landlords for harassment but these laws are sometimes difficult to enforce. However, when motives similar to what is mentioned above are proven in court, the offenders can face a harsh sentence.

Listed below are a few questions answered by the lawyers on landlord harassment laws.

Can I do anything to stop my landlord from harassing me while I move out? Can I get a restraining order until the lease has properly expired?

You could either file a restraining order or call the police and file a complaint against harassment from your landlord. If your lease is due to expire in over three months and the harassment is serious, you may be able to break the lease and move out quickly.

I stay in California and pay my rent regularly but my boyfriend is being harassed by the manager constantly for being unemployed and for drinking even though he is legally allowed to. The manager is also threatening to evict us since the police have been called on a few occasions by the neighbors because of arguments. However, we haven’t received any written notifications of complaints. Can I avoid eviction with a case against the harassment?

The arguments could constitute noise disturbances and be considered a violation of the lease. If that is true, the landlord can start eviction proceedings. However, your landlord not liking your boyfriend cannot be used as defense for such an eviction. What you could do to build your case would be to say that the accusations are not true and you could state that the reason for the eviction is your landlord doesn’t like your boyfriend. Your landlord's unpleasant interactions with your boyfriend could be offered as evidence. Despite this, it is possible the landlord will use testimony from the neighbors, as well as reports from the police, to prove all the accusations are true. Still, it may be worth fighting your case based on the facts mentioned above.

My landlord started harassing me at my apartment and workplace and began to disparage my name and reputation. The harassment arose because I complained about illegal tenants, and the harassment subsequently became dangerous and aimed toward scaring and punishing me for complaining. I suffered lost wages, had to forfeit my place in school, and was left with education loans to pay. What can I do to fight this?

A general civil lawyer should be able to take up your case and can help you to file an action against your landlord for the tort of interference with contract based on a business expectancy and defamation.

To establish a prima facie claim for tortious interference with contract, you need to prove there was a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy; the fact that the interferer knew about this relationship or expectancy; planned and intentional interference by the interferer that caused a breach or ended the relationship or expectancy; and the damage that then occurred as a result of this to the party whose relationship or expectancy was disrupted.

Defamation would involve the following:
1) Making a false statement against another.
2) Publishing the statement in an unprivileged manner to a third party.
3) A degree of fault, depending on the kind of case.
4) Damage or harm

Defamation using the printed word is considered libel while defamation using the spoken word is known as slander.

From what is known of your case, you appear to meet all the criteria to establish a prima facie claim for tortious interference with contract and defamation. It would be suitable to hire an attorney to fight your case.

I am new to being a landlord and handling eviction proceedings. I gave my tenant, who is on a month-to-month lease, the eviction paper within the specified time frame and filed it with the magistrate on schedule as well. I did have heated conversations and even left a stern phone message about him moving out. Can this constitute landlord harassment?

It is unlikely it would be considered harassment to use stern language. Harassment implies more serious things like switching off utilities like electricity, water, heating, and so on that would make living in the rental property very difficult. If you did not leave any threats when you left the messages, and if you left only one or two messages as opposed to many messages, it is unlikely you did anything wrong.

There are several methods used by landlords to harass tenants. Some of these could be withholding maintenance on the rental unit in the form of landscaping, garbage collection or repairs; imagined or exaggerated complaints of a tenant’s alleged misconduct; defacing the facilities where a tenant stays intentionally; threatening or intimidating a tenant with physical or financial injury and so on. If landlord harassment ever gets too much for a tenant to handle at any point, it’s sensible to consult with a lawyer to understand the best way to fight the problem.
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