landlord tips to avoid dodgy tenants

When money, investments, and habitat are mixed it can create a powder keg for some landlord-tenant relationships.

It can be easy to cast stones depending on what side you stand…

… however, like most things in life, there are two sides to the coin.

We’re going to break down 10 examples of landlord harassment and 10 examples of tenant harassment. Most importantly we will discuss how to remedy the situation.

Most landlords probably do not intend to harass their tenants, but understanding what it means and identifying situations that may be considered harassment will go a long way in educating landlords on what not to do, especially when tensions run high and they are frustrated.

What is Landlord Harassment?

Landlord harassment is when the landlord creates conditions that are designed to encourage the tenant to break the lease agreement or otherwise abandon the rental property that he or she is currently occupying. Landlord harassment is a specific set of behaviors that the law recognizes and landlords can be punished for this kind of activity.

While sometimes it is hard to prove landlord harassment, more and more courts are recognizing this kind of behavior and imposing the appropriate legal penalties when the issues are brought to court.

10 Examples of Landlord Harassment

  1. Failing to perform maintenance tasks in a timely and responsible manner
  2. Withholding amenities that were previously allowed, such as pool privileges or landscaping services
  3. Notices of improper conduct that are made up or exaggerated
  4. Notices of improper conduct that single out the tenant while violations from other tenants are ignored
  5. Refusing to accept or otherwise acknowledge proper payment of rent
  6. Entering the property without just cause or proper notice, often repeatedly
  7. Creating a nuisance (like loud noise or throwing trash) that disrupts the tenant’s ability to quietly enjoy the rental unit
  8. Deliberate destruction of tenant’s property
  9. Threats of financial injury, such as reporting to a credit bureau or refusing to provide positive references to future landlords
  10. Physical intimidation and threats of physical violence

Landlord harassment often happens when landlords feel like they cannot wait for proper methods to raise the rent or not renew lease agreements. Many cases happen in strict rent-controlled areas where landlords want to get rid of current, lower rent tenants in favor of higher paying newer tenants.

Landlords who resort to these actions are often trying to avoid the expense of eviction and the hassle of removing a tenant in the proper, legal way.

Even if the tenant is violating the lease agreement or the landlord has decided not to renew the lease agreement when it expires, there is no excuse and no valid reason for landlords to harass tenants.

In NYC a landlord can even be fined somewhere between $1,000 – $10,000 for harassment.

10 Examples of Tenant Harassing Landlord:

  1. Tenant refuses to pay rent citing repair issues
  2. The landlord constantly receives noise complaints about the tenant
  3. The tenant sends threatening emails or texts to the landlord
  4. The tenant pays rent in large amounts of change
  5. The landlord goes through the proper procedures to raise rent and the tenant refuses to pay or leave the rental
  6. The tenant violates the warranty of habitability of other tenants
  7. The tenant shows up at the landlords home
  8. A tenant assaults the landlord
  9. The tenant refuses to follow parking guidelines
  10. The tenant claims to have sent cash by mail for the rent and refuses to pay rent now

Landlord Retaliation

Another aspect of landlord harassment happens when the tenant has complained about the landlord to the building owner, an apartment association or government agency.

It’s called landlord retaliation and is recognized by the law as behavior designed to punish a tenant for properly filing a valid complaint or organizing or joining a tenant union or similar group. Tenants can also be protected from vengeful landlords if they properly withhold money from rent for repairs based on their state’s laws.

If the tenant has issued a complaint about something a landlord has done or has not done, some landlords may feel offended or angry and set out to punish the tenant. In addition to the behaviors described previously, landlords often retaliate by starting the eviction process, raising the rent or changing something about the terms of tenancy.

Other retaliatory acts might include restricting or decreasing services. Although these things are perfectly acceptable for landlords to do when there are no issues between them and the tenant, they can be seen as an act of retaliation when performed soon after a tenant complaint.

The courts automatically recognize such action taken by a landlord (typically within six months) after tenant action as retaliation. Therefore, if the tenant complains, the burden of proof is up to the landlord to show that their actions are not in retaliation for what the tenant has done.

The landlord would need to convince the court that they would have taken that action (raise the rent, not renewed the lease agreement, etc.) regardless of what the tenant’s actions were. If the action takes place some time and distance away from the tenant’s protected action, it can still be proved to be retaliation but the burden of proof shifts to the tenant.

What to do if landlord is harassing tenant?

In most cities there is usually an organization that represents tenants and their rights. A quick local Google search should reveal if this is the case in your area. For example, here in Buffalo, NY we have HOME (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) which any landlord or tenant can call to discuss issues or questions they have.

Services like these are a good step if normal remediation techniques are not working or the tenant or landlord is being abusive.

The Bottom Line

It’s against the law to use intimidation, coercion or harassment to attempt to get a tenant to vacate a rental property. It’s also against the law to punish a tenant for a protected action.

To protect themselves from accusations, it’s important for landlords to keep copies of all notices, letters, rental agreements, and more. It’s also a good idea to write down summaries of phone conversations, note witnesses to conversations and otherwise document questionable actions.

For example, if a tenant makes a complaint to a government agency and the landlord was planning on raising everyone’s rent a few months later, he or she should document that all rents were raised, not just the particular tenant’s rent.

Recognizing what kind of actions and behavior could constitute harassment is a critical component for landlords to understand in successfully managing a rental property. Avoiding harassment, even if unintentional, is the best way to deal with tenants and landlords should instead choose the proper, legal methods to manage their rentals.

Do you have any suggestions on how landlords can better handle harassment accusations from tenants? Please share this article and let us know in the comments section below.


  1. I would like to know of ways to protect the Landlord against tenant claims of harassment if things go wrong?

    With the help of a debt solutions company I have reached a confidential no fault agreement, involving almost the repayment of most of the rent back to the tenant. It seems that if the Landlord does everything right from the contract agreement prospective — that the Court favours a bad tenant alleging harassment no matter how untrue the claims are. The tenant took me to town on damp issues — blocking entry, switching off heating, calling Police, etc. After all breakdowns are part and parcel of tenancies and court cases could cost £ 50K to fight harassment cases and out of most people’s pockets.

    • Hutchinson, it sounds like you’re in the UK. But regardless of that, I’d like to think a fair justice system will favor the person with proper documentation and a strong case. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid frivolous claims, but in the end a well prepared landlord should prevail if everything was done according to the lease, and the law.

      Good luck with everything!

  2. My landlord been harassing me and my family. She was involved recording me without my permission .what can i do about that?

    • Jennifer, it sounds like there’s a whole lot to this story. I have no idea why, or under what circumstances, your landlord felt the need to record you. Was it a phone call or a recording of you yelling or something?

      I’ve been around long enough to know there is two sides to every situation so I have to assume there’s something going on.

  3. What can I do if I am a room renter in the landlord’s house (in Tampa, FL) and the landlord…

    1) Refuses to listen to complaints (slams his door on me even though I speak to him in a calm and professional manner)
    2) Is constantly bad-mouthing me to other tenants (mostly yelling at me and about me loud enough for everyone to hear, and there are 2 others, including his own mother.)
    3) Only pays the bills when things gets disconnected or shut off (he only pays the past due balance to get it turned back on but not the entire amount due)
    4) Is constantly bragging about how excited he is when parts for his new computer system he ordered arrive (I know that this is not an actual renter problem. But I am making a point that he admits to spending money on other things instead of using the money to pay the bills, making it quite obvious that he does not make the bills a priority.)
    5) (and this is the best one) He just got done evicting a tenant that actually was a problem and burned him bad. (8 months behind, drug user, would ignore common house rules) Now that he is gone, he is blaming me for all the problems with house.

    I advised him the the toilet is non-functional (for the 5th time this month) and he blew up at me saying (censored) “What’s the problem now!” and “I’m tired of your complaints!” and “It only happens to you.” (ironically when everyone that uses that bathroom has been complaining about it for months, and that last comment is particularly embarrassing.)

    My only problem that points at me is that I am 1.5 months behind on the rent because of serious unemployment. But we made an agreement (in writing even) that as long as I start making payments when I get my first paycheck from my new job (in 2 days), everything will be fine.

    But until that, he is constantly yelling at me and treating me like I am his worst nightmare. I just don’t get it. He is 45 like myself, and when I first moved in with him we became great friends. After that last tenant everything changed. He just refuses to take responsibility like an adult, and keeps threatening to kick me out of the house.

    I am continually helping his ailing mother with errands to the store (to which his attitude was he’ll have a vacation is she dies) as well as the other roommates with whatever they need. And I’m always doing my share around the house to keep things clean. All I did was tell him the toilet wouldn’t flush again.

  4. Warthog, it sounds to me like you need a better situation. I would get caught up on the rent and get out of there!

    My guess is that the evicted tenant really upset the son and he is taking it out on you. Which is not fair obviously.

    Make sure you’re keeping good notes in case you’re accused of anything down the road. But when dealing with an unreasonable landlord, your best bet is to move on. Things are not going to change over night and you’ll likely never be able to rest assured knowing that your landlord has your best interest in mind.

    • To collect unpaid rent? I’m not sure why a landlord would need to show up at your job, so I’ll need more context to answer you Doug

  5. Mary, sorry to hear about the tenant you’re dealing with.

    I think it would be difficult and expensive to evict based on your reasoning. I would take the non-renewal approach. If she is on a month to month lease, give proper notice that the lease will not be renewed. If she’s under a term, do the same.

  6. They should give you reason. I would guess it’s the call you made. Whether you’re right or wrong, you’re now labeled a pain in the ass to the tenants and management. Unfortunately they might be wrong, but it’s up to you to fight them on it, and it’s a long battle.

    Did you try to talk to the neighbor before ratting on him?

  7. I get that it’s an inconvenient situation, but with proper notice on a month to month there’s not much you can do. Pack your stuff and find a new place. This is the biggest downside of renting vs owning.

  8. I doubt discrimination after hearing your story. Maybe your kids are causing problems and complaints from the other tenants. Either way, if it’s not an ideal place for children (which you indicated) maybe you should find a place that is.

  9. Depends on what your lease indicates. If you’re on a month to month lease, you can be given notice that your lease will not be renewed. Same with your neighbor. Most landlords don’t want to get rid of great tenants, so something tells me there is more to the story here. Just the fact that you’re so eager to seek damages makes me nervous too.

  10. Ummm… pay the rent you owe. I wouldn’t think this would be a confusing situation, the landlord wants to get paid the money you owe. If you don’t want to get phone calls or feel that you’re being threatened, pay the rent and end your relationship. Until then the landlord has the right to collection efforts. If you truly feel threatened take the issue up with your attorney or the Police. But even then, you’ll still owe past-due rent so you should plan to pay that regardless.

  11. Definitely sounds like he’s retaliating. But then again, he may be well within right to charge the late fees and issue the notice. I’d bring it up with your attorney who will want to review your lease agreement to make the determination.

  12. Why would you want to live in a place that is being neglected like this? Move out and move on. Sounds like bad landlords in my opinion. But then again, it’s only one side of the story I’m hearing. Either way, if there is truth to the constant issues with no attention that you mention, move out.

  13. we were not obligated to provide AC, but tenant said we feel very hot if we can reduce the rent so they can afford the ac, which was not possible, so we offer them to use our portable AC. which they accepted. after a month she called late night and asked to send my son over her unit to check AC , it was leaking, keep in mind she very often calls for small problems like , sink is block, we , ceiling fan they broke, we replace with new light and gave them AC, she did not drain it so water spills all over and wood floor popped up still we said do not worry about floor, she recorded all phone call whether her last call for AC i just got fed up and give her option to use 2 months notice if she does not want to finish her lease, now she is threatening me that she has recording of my offer to give them 2 month free resident and then they will leave otherwise she will take me to court, we tried to be helpful as much as we can, her lease started from Jan 1-2018, she requested to give her possession a week earlier, which we did without extra rent
    i want to know my legal position, if she goes to court ? one thing coming to my mind when she called to ask to send someone to look at the AC why she was recording even it was just a normal call, she was trying to intimidating me and was stand by to record, any suggestion

  14. Can an on site manager knock on your door at 8:45 a.m. on a Monday insist on entry within only minutes for a non- emergency, (said she had to check the size of the burners on our oven to order new ones!) then use that no-notice entry the next day, to say your apartment failed inspection that you may be fined or evicted? (I am in Nevada where 24 hour notice is required for entry)

  15. I want to know what my legal right is against my apartments they have allowed some men I believe Maintence men above my head and they are sexually harassing me every day and the police refused to come out to help. What can I do to get thie apartments closed down. I am sure they are attacking other tenenats as well. I am being tasered and talked to in a disrespectful manner.

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