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.