Tenant Harassing, Trying to Intimidate Landlord

by Chris on December 27, 2010

A landlord shared with us the difficulty she is currently experiencing with a tenant who just moved out.  Although she gave him proper notice and a cleaning checklist several weeks in advance, when she tried to hold him accountable for the poor condition of the property when he moved out, the tenant threatened to sue her.

Now, his parents have gotten into the fray, repeatedly emailing the landlord and leaving threatening phone messages.  They say they’ve hired a lawyer and will take her to court.

This landlord is not alone.  Many others have experienced concern that a tenant will find some way to “get even” with them, including calling in building inspectors, law enforcement authorities, or lawyers when the tenant doesn’t have a leg to stand on. These tenants are trying to intimidate the landlord in order to keep a security deposit, live rent-free or otherwise violate the lease agreement.

Landlords don’t have to tolerate harassment, intimidation or threats from tenants.   

If a tenant threatens you with legal action, ask to speak with the attorney they claim is representing them.  Get the lawyer’s phone number and give them a call. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to follow the law, and cannot encourage a tenant to pursue a course of action that is not justified. Chances are, the attorney will speak to you more respectfully, making it easier to resolve the problem.  Ask for information from the attorney in writing.

In all likelihood, there is no attorney, and the threat is empty. 

In that case, make it clear to the tenant or person harassing you that you will not tolerate any further communications unless in writing.

If the harassment continues, or if at any time you fear for your safety, the safety of others or your property, report the behavior to the police.  Prior to founding Tenant Verification Service, Marv Steier served as a Police Officer.  In his experiences, a landlord has the option of filing harassment charges against an unruly tenant or others who threaten or try to intimidate the landlord. Steier suggests obtaining the  file number for the police complaint, and placing that in the tenant’s file.  Making a police report is also an important step in the event you later have to obtain a restraining order against this tenant to keep them away from you or your property.
Keep a record of all communications with the tenant and any one else acting on their behalf.

As a landlord, you hold a serious legal threat of your own –the tenant needs you to give them a reference if they are going to rent again. You can remind them of this fact, but use a non-confrontational manner.

It is not appropriate for the landlord to use idle threats, or profanity, when dealing with problem tenants. If the matter does wind up in court, the judge will look more favorably upon the landlord who remained professional and did not escalate the dispute.

Maintaining a high level of professionalism from the outset if one of the best ways to avoid aggressive tenants.  Tenants respect landlords who lay down the law:

Always require a completed Rental Application.

Conduct a thorough Tenant Background Check, including a Credit Report, Criminal Background Check, and Eviction Report, to determine if this applicant has displayed inappropriate behavior in the past.

Call the previous landlord to obtain a reference.

Provide specific rules regarding how the property will be kept during the tenancy.

Complete a Move-In Inspection Report with photos or videos of the condition of the property.

End the tenancy with a walk-through and Move-Out Inspection report, with photos or videos of the condition of the property.

TIP:  Conduct an orientation for new tenants. Point them to www.tenantsinfo.com to learn about their rights and responsibilities as tenants. Where tenants know what is expected of them, there are far fewer hassles for the landlord.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).Landlord Credit Reports

Click Here to Receive

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles B. Smothers III January 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I personally enjoy the newsletter’s that TVS sends out as it provides further clarification and insight for those of us landlord’s whom are not property managers or have a professional background in property management services. I have utilized your services for my existing tenants and it has aided me in posting that they have been current/on-time paying their monthly rent. In closing, I look forward to utilizing your services on future tenants and hope to add my properties under my nest eggs.

Marie January 14, 2011 at 6:14 am

I, too am having a acting out or being imtimidating. I live downstairs and I have a couple living upstairs. Their main claim is not being warm enough and the driveway is not plowed to their satisfaction. I do control the heat and it is kept at 70 degrees at all times. To help them solve the problem I have put heat deflectors on the forced air vents, suggested they move items away from the air ducts(they had a live christmas tree in front of one of them)and I have closed off vents in my apartment downstairs so more heat is going upstairs. Still they claim it is not watm enough. His fiance actually yelled at me at the top of her lungs for not fixing it. I di not yell back because that is not how I am. I am trying very hard to accomodate them like I should. So in retaliation they have called the code enforcement person from my town. I spoke with them(the town) and nothing happened. He also has left various messages on my answering machine still not satisfied with the heat and the plowing. He actually measures how much snow there is and calls and complains because it is not plowed. Last night after I came home I did call my plow person and asked him to come plow. But in the mean time my tenant went out to shovel the driveway, I thought he was leaving to go somewhere. His car cannot make it out of my driveway according to him. I think he has bad tires. But instead of putting the snow on the other side of the driveway where there is tons of room to deposit the snow( I have 2 1/2 acres of land) he buried my car. On the driver side he put 3 feet of snow and in front of my car there was at least a foot. I did not take the bate I just waited until he finished and went out and unburied my car and then my plow person came and cleared the driveway of the rest. I have a contract for plowing because the driveway is 200 feet long and it is plowed at 3 inches and above. There is only 5 more months left on their lease. I did get references and checked them out. One of them was at his workplace but unfortunately he was recently fired from there. So please tell me what further I can do to help this situation. I feel he is trying to intimidate and bate me for a confrontation and that is not my style to argue. Thanks for this article

Moiz Ahmed August 13, 2011 at 2:00 am

I found this article while researching harrasement. I have a town home that I couldn’t sell and my tenants came to me and signed a lease for two years with lease to purchase option. He hired the attorney and got the lease agreement made. He offered me 5K as the deposit for the purchase which I accepted. He wanted to prove by giving me this money that he is honest and “will” purchase the property. Exactly 6 months before the lease was supposed to expire he stopped paying me rent, saying he wants the money to be used in lieu of the rent (where as the agreements we signed specifically say he cannot do that). I called him numerous times 3 months before he stopped paying rent for working on the Home Owner’s Complaints against him that I received but he never picked up my phone. After he stopped paying me rent, I called him to do the same and he replied with one sentence “talk to my attorney and if you don’t use my money against the rent I will drag you in the court for the next 9 months”. I hired an attorney, it took us 6 months to get a court date for eviction (imagine that), in that time I never called him to said anything but kept getting threatning messages from him through people we both knew about him dragging me in the court and also that he is waiting for me to go into foreclosure so that he can negotiate with the bank and buy the house. On the day of the court, he filed a report against my wife for harrasement (my wife hasn’t even been in the city for almost 2 1/2 years). I had send him a notice to inspect the property and as I went there to inspect (I had never disturbed him while he was living for the entire two years and never went into the property – I live in a different city), he wasn’t at home and upon calling him he said he will be there in a minute. He came and instead of letting me in the house he said I did not setup an appointment with him and he will not let me in the house. He also said that he has filed a harrasement case against my wife and he will get arrest warrants issued against her, so I should better leave. I had police officers with me, I just told everyone that I don’t want any problems so its okay and I will not go into the property. We went to the court that day and the Judge dismissed the case saying it was not in his jurisdiction. Now, I have not had rent since last 6 months, he is telling everyone (common friends calling me a telling me that) that he kicked me out of my own house and has won the case. On top of that he is threatning to get arrest warrants for my wife – my wife hasn’t even seen him up till now. Can anyone help me with this? Please

ariel ferreira December 1, 2011 at 9:20 am

i have a tenant that keep telling my dad he is going to kill him what should we do

thomas December 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

It seems to me that the tenants have all the control in a rental situation, i own two houses on one lot in los angeles california, i live in the guest house and the tenants {two sisters and once child each} live in the main house, when i let them move in i had an addendum added so they pay 1/2 the water bill, i would send them bills and they would continuously igore them, they are the type of people that are very passive aggressive, and act like they are innocent and sweet to your face and then stab you in the back, its been two years now and they have yet to pay one cent of the water bill, they have been late on the rent about 85% of them time, I finally charged them a late fee for the first time last month, they couldnt believe it! and wrote me letter saying what a horrible discusting person i was… i have baked cakes for them, fixed anything they called me to fix right away, i feel i have been so incredibly taken advantage of, now i want them out and being in a rent control area of los angeles, i might have to pay them a huge amout to relocate them, does anyone have any ideas for me???? help!!!!!!!!

Al August 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I have a female tenant that resides in a shared apartment with 3 other girls. She is so messy and abusive verbally, she has chased 3 of my tenants away. She has made claims that im a racist landlord as if that were the case, why would I have let her move in. the problem tenant as well as the other 3 female tenants are black as well. When I found out she was intimidating people by threats, I confronted her about this and she started getting hostile with ,me. I have asked her numerous times to stop engaging in conflict with other tenants and she says she isnt yet 3 have moved out and 3 others have said the same thing about her. One tenant has filed a complaint with police department, the others are too scared to file complaints as she has threatened to have her people come by and take people down if do anything. She has told people inthe building she is on probation for a felony she committed. Currently Dept of soc services is paying her rent. I just hired an attorney. She has made threats to other tenants that if she was to get evicted she would burn the house down. Just last week she found out im going forward with an eviction process against her and she “had a grease fire” in the kitchen and burned down my kitchen. Fire department labeled it as a grease fire yet she was “in the shower” when it happened. After the fire was going, one of the other tenants on her floor was actually there and called me to let me know what was going on. The problem tenant never called me or the fire department when the fire started. I be;lieve she junped in the shower long enbough to wet her hair..pretend she knew nothing and went upstairs to tell the guys on 2nd floor there was a fire yet she has had arguments with them constantly. Every day I bring in a new tenant, they move out the same day or in a short time. This woman is crazy and although i c ant prove anything i know im right and i know what she has done. Any thoughts?

me December 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm

OMG this is my tenant exactly! He has tried to bully and intimidate me, refused to follow tenancy terms throughout, told us he can do what he wants, yell and swear in my face whilst foaming at the mouth, pointing fingers at me. Refuse to pay rent but want to stay, refuse to leave, then want to leave and break the lease without penalty. Threatens to take us to court and try to make my husband lose his job and lots of money, his words. Abandon the unit after agreeing to leave and we allowed them to break the lease just to keep peace, not show up to move out, keep the keys, threaten to come back in with police based on the original lease (the one they broke and moved out on) threaten to break into the house, disturb new tenant…then call the police on us while harrasing us because he knew we would call them – and they had heard his bs lies first! Will not stop calling, texting, email threats and intimidation, had to change phone number. Shows up at house with police, claiming he still lives here with young daughter home alone scaring her. HELL. Still we remained professional and careful but with some people they are capable of so much vindictive retalitory bs.

pj December 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

Help! What can I do my tenant is a military officer from the local air force base, and has been intimadating me from day one. They refuse to do the yard work, per lease agreement and constantly harrass us for imaginary repairs. I called the local,police when they started screaming. Police showed up and would not let me file a report. My husband and I usually do all repairs, we built 2 homes and he is very excellent. After the 12 month lease, the agreement states it goes month to month… can I tell them they have to vacate. He conned me into cheap rent and now this.

mahjabeen January 21, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I have a female tenant who lives with her son ,she has rented two rooms from us. I have a male lawyer tenant who also lives in the room that is adjacent to their room.
The lady speaks rudely to me and leaves her dirty dishes in the sink we clean after her. She bakes the cupcakes and serves it to the other tenants infront of me and does not offer me any thing.
The reason is that she does not want me to get the chance to tell her to eash her own dishes or take the fridge out of her son’s room as per the lease agreement.
The male and the female tenent show alot of love and friendship for each other and
do not want to comply by the rules of the house for example leaving their empty beer, soda,bottles ,cans behind. Leaving the heater on for day and night, keeping all the lights on etc.
I am scared of them what should i do?

JOHN March 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

If a tenant threatens the property owner’s son to burn down the property owners home but the phone conversation is a non consensual recording is there any way the property owner use the tape as evidence in an eviction?

Chris March 19, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi John,
The rules regarding recorded conversations vary from one place to the next, and same with the rules of evidence. You need to speak with a landlord or trial attorney in your area. Thanks, Chris

Theresa April 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

I have a Tenant that pressed charges on her Husband for strangulation a couple years ago. He did some time for that. He is currently back on the property living with her. I know that there was a no-contact order, but it may have lapsed. This man has made several attempts to let me know “what I should or should not be doing as a on-site Manager” I have posted several notices to his wife…whom is my Tenant-he is considered an Unauthorized Occupant at this point and refuses to do an application or give me documentation on the lifted no-contact order. He called Code Enforcement on me and it failed. He is now currently taking photo’s of the property, my crew as they work and of myself while working too. Recently, I caught he and his wife trying to look through the windows of the office while it was closed. He has screamed and cussed in my face and has several other Tenants now caught up in the drama he has created. I live in the same building as they do. I am a small woman and he stands 6’4″ and is really intimidating. He is now scaring and harassing other Tenants as well…..I have tried to find information to help with Managers and Owners…there is NONE! All laws regarding Tenant/Landlord’s is for the Tenant only!
I have posted several notices asking to meet with me to resolve these issues. They ignore them. I need to know if I file a 30 No-Cause to evict them….can they claim retaliation? They called Code Enforcement the beginning of this month…I just want them to leave so Peace is restored…HELP!

Ben There October 24, 2013 at 11:56 am

All a landlord need to do is file for an eviction. This is not to say you will get them out of the apartment but in my experience all the courage and conviction–and hot air, goes away as the nasty tenant comes near a court of law where a judge is present and has the power to put them in a cage.
The nasty ones are the easiest. Film them in during one of their violent drama-sodes and then write them up for disorderly behavior or, if appropriate, for harassment of the other tenants. If they are late on rent send out a pay or quit and for your own sake, charge late fee’s and don’t loose a bit of sleep over things. There are many slum-lords out there that have ruined the landlord thing with their games, and then there are professional landlords that provide the tenant with far more than they deserve.
Never forget this when you know your apartment is a nice place.

Your tools are:
1. The Lease — make sure it is comprehensive, — the best ones are used in the big cities with all the loopholes either exposed or closed.
2. Pay or quit — when rent is due and is late send both certified and standard mail.
3. Notice to Cease — when a part of the lease has been violated, write them up and send just like Pay or Quite. Stuff like stop damaging the house, stop causing altercations, stop menacing the landlord, stop paying partial rent payments, stop acting like a subhuman, stop ignoring provisions of the lease etc …

4. Camera and Video –record and document everything. The judge likes this stuff.

5. Get a good sidekick and empower them as an agent of the property. Sometimes a
burly friend or relative tips the scales in your favor plus when you have a serial scammer or a professional tenant you need a witness to protect yourself. These types of tenants have no conscious, no scrupples, no concern, and ertainly no place in your home. Cull them out. Do not let them disturb your good tenants.

6. Complete a safety inspection periodically and do so with the minimal notice in writing. Once you give notice in writing you cannot be kept from entering. If you are prevented call the police and get them involved.

7. Do a periodic check of who is living in your apartment as serial scammers tend to follow each other around like drug addicts. Sub-letting is grounds for eviction and flop-houses are bad for business.

8. If a tenant reports a problem always respond within 24 to 48 hrs and send notice of resolution in writing. While making the repairs look around the house for signs of tampering of safety devices–ground for eviction, fire hazards, etc … a bad tenant usually has no awareness of their own safety much less anyone elses.

9. Beware of the following scams:
a. The sink that is always clogged when the rent is due. It is caused for effect.
b. The claim that mold is in the house. This is a big one these days and while it is possible do not hire a mold remediator to test your house for mold. They will always find something and try to get you to spend a fortune. Hire a house inspector that does not do repairs or remedation.
c. The renter that pays in cash. This smells of illegal activity
d. The renter that pays partial payments.

Make sure your tenants fill-out applications

Melanie November 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I have done this five times before: Since I have not been able to drive since 1998 I have had five people here that I only charged a pro-rated amount for utilities, including, electricity, water, gas, cable TV with all channels and internet, in exchange for driving me when / where I wanted or needed to go. All five times it worked out well for both parties, they were all either disabled vets or down on their luck. When they were financially able to or got their benefits, they moved on to bigger and better things, some of them still call me and they call me Mom. But the sixth one, he is already getting his SSI and was looking for a place to live that he could afford so we made a deal, I told him I would charge him 150 per week, but would cut that in half if he would drive me, although he accepted the deal he created such a hostile environment that I could not be in the car with him, he also refused to take me anywhere he didn’t want to go even though I rode with him and waited in the car while he saw his doctors, pharmacies, got stuff out of his storage…etc. He has also created a hostile environment around my home by trying to take control of everything I do and changes things to suit himself, even if I object, so I ask him to leave. It turned into a barrage of e-mails, some berating me, some insulting and some accusatory, sometimes I fired back but not to the degree he fired at me. He has threated me with lawyers and social workers if I try to evict him, He has also decided that even though he didn’t keep his part of the bargain and will not drive me, or harasses me until I want to get out of the car, he will only pay me 75.00 per week and that if I try to evict him, he will sue me. there is no written contract other than e-mails that clearly explain the deal and shows that he agreed to it. I tried sitting in the back seat and using my MP3 player to tune him out, but he just yells that much louder and I can not avoid a confrontation with him. I want him off my property and out of my life, do I have any recourse. Additionally, he is living in my game room separate from my house but it is not approved as a rental unit and continues to harass me by e-mail, daily.

Joan Green December 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I have been renting for 3 months now. I told the tennats that the rent was going up in 3 months. After several text messages i met the tennants and their parents and grandparents. My property has been damaged and ruts in the yard. Trash is thrown around the yard and not put in container provided which was on the rental agreement. I said rent was going up and it turned into a verbal confrontation which i was threatened that i would never rent again and another verbal threat. I dont know what my rights are but i know it is illegal to be harrassed by tennnants. Please i need advice on what to do?

cynthia bruce January 18, 2014 at 4:47 am

I have a small house with a older renter. She always thinks furnace is not getting warm. Had it checked a few times by professional. Her family even say
s its fine. Yesterday it was 17 out and she calls because its only 70 in house wants me to hire some one to come out and check the furnace. My
husband went over she has a programed for 70 degrees it was 70 degrees in the house

Diana Manager March 13, 2014 at 8:23 am

My husband and own a 12 unit apartment building that has 3 floors and we have a tenant that has lived in our building for 3 years that lives on the 2nd floor. As far as rent goes, she basically pays her rent on time. When she is going to be late she contacts us to let us know she will be late with the rent. Unfortunately, she is also an habitual complainer.
Since she has lived in our building she has complained about every single person that has lived above her and also the children who live in our building. The children who she is complaining about are not making noise during daylight hours and she has even complained (lied) that the children are making noise when the children aren’t even home. I have asked our other tenants if they have heard the children and all of them have said no. The little bit of sound the children are making are everyday children sounds. They are not jumping or thumping or screaming or anything that would disrupt anyone.
This tenant has even went so far as to tell me that I should force the kids to play outside because they get on her nerves. I informed her that would be against state law. Now, 3 days ago she had a very loud argument with her daughter and I had several tenants call me to tell me that it sounds like someone is being killed in there. I told them to call the police. My husband and I even went there to speak with her about the incident and also spoke with both officers. I have tried to contact this tenant by phone but I think she blocked my number. She can contact me from her number but I cannot contact her from her number. My husband and I have went over there to speak with her but she has a very bad/snotty attitude with us because the police were called. She even said that since the police were called on her that she will call the police when she hears noises that bother her.
My question is, can I evict her? Her rent is on time, but she calls and demands unreasonable requests and basically harasses us by these unreasonable demands and calls us demanding us to stop every sound that gets on her nerves.

Jen June 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I have owned my rental property for over 25 years I’m 70 My daughter is the manger for over 2 years, Trailer just got rented to a couple and 3 kids that or under age. took rental application and other information. On June 1st 2014 big mistake let the family move in they read the lease which is a month to month lease, didn’t give them a lease until they paid rent of $500.00 a month and no deposit in amount of $ 475.00. Took their words due to husband said he doesn’t get his disability check til the 3rd so they moved some things in on sun 1st of June 2014 , they couldn’t move in til electric was in their name. they have no lease no nothing, he would text manger tell her he going to bank to cash a big check then every day of first week of June all he did was putting us all of his wife couldnt understand why owner and manger was coming to their place he told her he paid us and made many excuses and lies to her, he took a picture of the bank sent it to manger, in that week of June he flipped out texting his wife and made harmful threats toward himself and called landlord dirty nasty names and harassed us his wife called law and all or other tenants were scared of him.9 cops on or property due to him getting caught after telling his wife all texts messages he sent on having a big check to cash and bank said it was to big to cash and it would be a day or to which he didn’t have a checking account nor a big check, so he cut himself hid on or property cops found him he went to mental hospital. next day went with witness told her she will not be able to stay she had no way of paying rent and deposit she agreed and said she was getting a divorce and he beats her and her kids , anyway their was a small water leak that needed to be fixed she wife turned on us wouldn’t let us in trailer to get in bathroom she is excusing owner of pushing her down and called all kinds of people stating we have cut a pipe so they didn’t have water , husband gets out made threats on beating owner and under age kids on or property that leads to a creek we own and we have trapassing sign everywhere they were told to stay out when calling law they said do you own that water, kids were naked, cops told us to stay off of or own property and husband been going under trailer ripping and taking pipes and under pending off or trailer, the law defends them I has tried to arrest us if were on or own property kids Jumping on hood and roof of their vehicle yelling bothering other tenants. spanking each others butts and we have no right . their last land lord we wish we have known soon told us they are nuts and the husband pulled 22 pistol on one of their tenants and law didn’t anything cause he had bb’s in gun also they stolen electric from another meter. they have threaten to call U.s Marshall on us . they have caused us so much problems and having there low life friends harassing us threw face book and following us, filed a trapassing charge against then after 2 cops told them to stay of or property toward are creek and cops said they do it again they will be arrested yeah right they are still doing it and all the law does is nothing. others tenants have made peace disturbance law didn’t help them , but yet broad day light they see owner they call cops and officer try to arrest owner for nothing but lies they tell the cops…. what can be done …. how is higher then the county law……. please someone help us with answer….

Julie August 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm

And don’t feel you lost! Getting away is a win. Having normal people and normal communication and interactions is a win. People like all the above and my tenant are only interested in one thing…taking advantage of people like us. So it’s actually their loss when they lose out on getting to rent a nice place from decent people. Chalk it up to experience and be done as quick as possible. The faster you have those kinds of people and situations out of your life, the better you will be! Truly!!! Good Luck!

John September 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

I own a mobile home park and early this year i was talking to my tents about owner financing there trailers but before any contracts was drown up my mother passed away and I changed my mind im selling the whole park and I got a treating letter on my porch from a tent saying that if I don’t finance he’s trailer he was going sue me can he do that

Jeri November 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

My tenant is an attorney.
He has been harassing & intimidating me, to the point I callled the police.
However, when the police arrived, they would not file a report.
(BTW, can I still request report, from Sept?)
He is always complaining about heat, hot water, ants, ticks, termites etc….
& showed alot of anger to me, when I was in his apt.
He said he was very angry with me, because every time he claims an issue, I fix the issue or respond.
(yes, thats correct, he said he is angry I actually fix any issue)
At that visit, he had flooded his bathroom & the water went into apt downstairs.
Currently he has sent me 200-250 emails of complaints.
I respond to each & every email immediately.
For example, he sends email from his law office saying:
I have no heat.
So I call his wife (to ask for apt access, we live next door)
I’m in apt, & ask wife, so you have no heat?
She says, what gave you that idea?
I say, well I have an email from your husband saying this.
She smiles.
Then I email husband saying, Im in apt & you do have heat.
Husband says, oh did I say no heat? I meant no hot water.
(So I check the water faucet, (YES, There is HOT Water) & ask wife why she & he thinks there is no hot water?
MY Point, if I was not home, there would be no way to defend, there is heat & hot water.
And this is the game of emails he keeps sending.
He asked to get out of lease, I released him, and then next day, he said no to my release.
Last week he said he will no longer pay rent, I should use his 3 months of security for rent. ( he only has, 1.5 months security)
(Remember he is an attorney) He is an real estate tenant landlord attorney.
the newest complaint was to Dept of building, saying the house has illegal 3rd floor.
My understanding is, w/violation, the tenant has no obligation to pay rent to landlord.
Are you able to help me?
I believe im having a nervous breakdown.
Are you able to direct me to attorney ? Thank you

jerry November 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

Can you recommend a good attorney in NYC that I as a landlord can use in dealing with a tenant who has all of the above traits and 3 mos in the rear on his rent.

Alexis December 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I moved a tenant in Feb into my home. March she stopped paying rent kept giving me excuses and excuses. I let it go about 6 months once I told her I cant any longer and will have to take action I sent a 14 day notice to quit or pay up and she called inspectors on me. They cited things I have fixed and have worked with them on fixing. she paid in august then stopped againd paid only partial. Menawhile she has been very nasty and rude to me, texting me , telling me she has no phone, then I find out she does, refusing mail I send. She never told me of any leak in her house until I sent the 14 day. she continues to text me then when I respond she says don’t text me so I don’t text her or call her anymore however she now emails me. I got a date to go to court for eviction and I got a phone call from a inspector stating she calling complaining again about something she never called me about. I feel like I am being bullied. I found out she has had been to court for evictions right before she moved in. I also found out by speaking with the previous landlord recently that she does this yearly to people to live rent free. She has 7 children and uses the system as she know how to play the game. I just want her out.

Bill October 17, 2015 at 5:15 pm

I witnessed a tenant that lives with my sister, make threats to the to burn down the house. I confronted this person and told him I would make sure he went to jail if this transpired. He threatened me with court. All of this transpired in front of 4 people. Myself the landlady and 2 of the tenants. The landlady who had come to address the problem of this tenant leaving the toaster oven on for another tenant there to discover late into the night. It was areal concern and this tenant went into a yelling fit when confronted. The other tenants do not want to live with with this person and want him to leave. What can they do

Andy June 19, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Bleurgh. Thought I’d add a counterweight to all the moaning landlord “Oh no, sometimes my business has business realities, and my tenants don’t do exactly what I tell them, and when they do it’s harassment”

Did you know that threatening to sue people isn’t harassment? So I would politely correct that author in saying that, yes, landlords do have to put up with “reasonable” threats, because, you know, it’s called negotiation. You don’t really get to just declare how much money someone owes you, you have to charge them a reasonable amount, and if you don’t their only option is to “threaten you” and then take you to court.

And, hey, if your tenant thinks you aren’t being reasonable then you shouldn’t be surprised if they do things like tell people that your unsafe property is, indeed, unsafe. You might also like to bear in mind that although you do, indeed, have a somewhat unreasonable power to make your tenants life difficult with references, the tenant might take it upon themselves to do the same thing via:

1. Online review sites
1. Impromptu “references” for your future tenants.

Anyway, I imagine the correct response to a dispute is unemotional and technical. Threats should probably be kept is reserve and only made if plausible.

You might consider, providing your tenant with a complete list of expenses that you think are correct, and asking if they would like to challenge any of them, and then providing evidence for those that disagree with. If you can stomach it you might even consider starting it with a “Hey, I want to make sure I’m being fair, here’s a list of the things that I believe I can charge you money for” rather than “As my 40 page contract says on page 14 section 3”

This at least gives the illusion of justifying position and engaging with the complaint, and hell you might be wrong on a couple of points – you never know (Like the landlord who decided to try to charge me 250 dollars for a remote control for a 20 year old television which wasn’t theirs and listed “damage” that was clearly shown on an inventory when I moved in…

I also don’t quiet understand why landlords view their rental agreements as these sacrosanct documents where the violation of any term is a heinous crime. Yes, people should not enter into agreements that they don’t intend to honor, but at the same time you should bear in mind that
i) contracts are long, ii) they are presented at the final stage of the process, iii) they are normally presented as non-negotiable. If there are important terms in your contract that you want people to abide by you might like, try to get people to feel like they’ve agreed to them by doing things like:

1. Including them in advertisements (you could even provide terms and conditions before viewings)
2. Making them clear during viewings

But, I’m guessing you didn’t do that because you were more concerned about renting the property quickly….

There’s even quite a famous book “Getting to yes” that agrees with me.

johnny July 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Andy, bravo man you nailed it, I’m a perfectionist, at least with my life, I realize many others don’t fit my standards, and I take the position of providing a service or in these cases a dwelling. I also know people who want the best for themselves want my best as well. I strive to meet those expectations, as I hope any of my potential tenants would, but being a realist I expect for some pride of ownership does not govern their behavior and it’s possible to contact with the wrong person, that’s on me, likely because I didn’t do my best to insure my property was as important to them as to me. I use all the services provided in my state to comply with housing and fair business practices, because of this, I have always prevailed through negotiations with the tenant out of court, and I will always be ready for the in court experience weather a judge finds in my favor or the tenants. I have a fast pen, a patient method at conversation, and a telephoto lens, all which have reduced the overall friction that can develop between the ones that owe & the one that collects, and I keep tenants for years.

Deanna August 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

I realize that I may be coming at this from the opposit end of the spectrum. But since everyone here all appear to be landlords maybe it’s possible to get a decent answer. I am a single mother who is renting a home, and for the past ten months I have been dealing with a roof that is significantly leaking. To the point that I am having to place five gallon buckets around the home when it rains. I have in writing the landlord claiming it will be repaired but never is. My son’s home health RN is becoming concerned with the mold that is growing. While we bleach and bleach, it of course will always come back in a wet environment. I have been a good, quiet, clean tenant who has ALWAYS paid the rent in time. I’m actually a bit OCD in how I clean due to my son’s health condition. Again while I realize you are all landlords here, I truly could use some advice on how to best handle the situation. I have documented continuous contact with the landlord as well as pictures and have voiced to the landlord the concern that her home is going to become structurally unsound. Her response was that she would let me out of the lease, but moving is not an option for me. There are very few places to rent in my area and I cannot afford to buy until I complete my Masters degree. Any advice on how to handle this matter? 🙂

Jesus Miguel August 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm

I just want to know how can I put a tenant out home?, she drunk, take drugs, damage property, etc, I went to court and there is a form , “NOTICE FROM LANDLORD TO TENANT_TERMINATION FOR FAILURE TO PAY RENT”, can I use this form for bad tenant that pay rent on time?, the tenant want to pay me after I gave her the 3 day notice, can I refuse that money from her?, I just want she leave, if she go front the judge, and the judge accept her excuse, can she stay in my house do not matter if I do not want her in my house?, there is not any rental agreement, I live in Miami.

ted jones May 8, 2017 at 1:06 pm

@Jesus Absolutly NOT you can not evict somebody just because you do not like them and yes you must accept money from her to be honest she should sue you

Marian scott August 4, 2017 at 7:32 pm

Ben There, thank you, you have answered my appeal to the universe. Item number 5 get a buddy a witness, a burly friend. Im a senior harassed to heart beating quivering. Can I legally have some one the tenant calls instead of me, who speaks to tenant on my behalf, who can witness and buffer me?

yaya August 31, 2017 at 2:12 pm

I notified my terrible tenant that I am raising her rent, now she is saying that because the lease addendum says “the lease CAN be extended”. she is staying there at the old rate, and extending her lease. I said I am asking her to move, at the end of
THIS current lease, and she has now sicced her ex-husband/attorney on me, saying I have 10 days to acknowledge that agreement, and then she stays in my housed at an extremely low rent. I say that is b.s. because “can be extended” does not mean “WILL be extended”. Does she have any right to refuse to leave after this lease expires?

Matthjew Weyuker September 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Wow! Great info!

Marlene September 24, 2017 at 2:21 pm

I am 66 years old, disabled and rent rooms in my beautiful home to remain self supporting and self reliant. Lived here for almost 37 years. Had no lease, did background check…he checked out…wanted me to change cable companies, wanted me to turn off the waterfall because it kept him awake, wanted me to call the city to reduce the red zone in front of my house so he could park there (there’s plenty of parking), after he moved in, wanted ten more feet of closet space…house is 100 years old…total closet space in entire home is 9 feet! I remodeled a darling, well built, immaculate single bedroom in a separate structure 4 feet from the main house. Has full use of main house, kitchen and bathroom of course. He then took over ten more feet in my garage area with two portable closets without my permission. I got him his cable programs, i gave in with him blocking half of my garage area, but….then one evening actually accused my nine pound, blind, deaf, Havanese of having the capability of unlocking his door and gonig in his room to “poop”…when i shook my head as to the logic of his accusation, he said that i did it! when I denied me going in there, much less puttig poop on a rug I own for crying out loud, he turned to my dog and said ‘I’ll tell you this…i can guarantee you this will, never, happen again…” meaning he would either harm my dog I’ve had 14 years or for my dog’s safety, get rid of my dog. Not going to happen. Picked up my dog, locked myself in my bedroom and called the police. they said ‘lady…get a retraining order if you are that afraid of him..” We all know those orders don’t hold water unless you have a video of the crime. What are the chances? Zilch. Told him he had two weeks to vacate. That’s not the end of it. He then demanded his security deposit plus pro rated rent as he found another place right away. I gave him until the end of the month,,,he voluntarily left early, plus he still had a few boxes here which i gave him permission to store. i told him i would just give him back security deposit and that’s it. Prior to the 21 days I had legally, he hand delivers a letter to me on 9/11/17 from him with no postage and no original signature, just typed. Did’t think anything of it at the time, but stated i have until 9/18/17 to address this issue which was still a little early for the 21 day period, but okay. On 9/12/17, City planning calls me with a complaint about an illegal garage conversion on my property. He called and reported this…making good on his threat to ‘ruin me financially”. I depend on renting rooms out in my house and this darling, single bed bedroom that is well built, ex was a contractor, no health problems, no plumbing problems, no electrical problems ..no;..he loved my home and his accomodations…’it’s perfect’ he said. He made this complaint for the sole purpose of intimidating me, harming me and causing me imminent foreclosure if i don’t have that income to support me. City comes out, tells me to tear out all the walls, tear it all out and turn it back into a two car garage. Never was two car garage. one half is a tiny garage that can only house a horse and buggy. house built 5 years after car invented. other half where this bedroom was is just a facade…impossible to get a skateboard in there much less a car! Said tough…turn it back into a garage or come up with $75,000 to $100,000 to turn it into a permitted apartment, full kitchen, full shower. i don’t have that kind of money or any money at all! So, this will send me into foreclosure shortly, devistate my entire life as i am slowly going to become totally blind, and the reality of their decision could result in me living on the streets. So to protect the general public from a no threat living situation, that in exchange for tossing a poor, nearly blind woman into proverty and into homelessness. That is our government’s train of thought that one law strictly enforced, no mater how any particular sitaution may be different, justifies causing irreparable damage to others..me.

There is no money for fines, no money for a $75,000 to $100,000 permitted structure to build to compensate for the rent i have lost, nothing..no charge accounts, no employment because i canot see…i am going blind as i wrtie this letter. No equity…nothing…

Then I get served with a small claims complaint taking me to court as he wants double the damages now for not complying. This makes no logical sense, no moral sense, no ethical sense, but criminal in nature as to the success of one individual who made good on his threat to “ruin me financially”, but let’s hope he doesn’t get too confident as to his power to harm me and poison my dog or harm him as he threatened to do!

Linda Ayers October 19, 2017 at 8:58 am

I feel for the landlords. I have a 4 bedroom,2 bath double wide on a few acres I rented out for a few. The best tenants I had were army veterans. They understood that you paid the rent on time & addressed any issues in a friendly manner. The last tenants were predators. Young couple w/ 3 kids between them. Signed the lease & later when they decided they weren’t going to follow any of the terms told me it wasn’t a “real” lease. So I told them they needed to find another place. wife cussed me out & said I couldn’t make them move since they had kids. I took them to court & the judge agreed w/ me. The last words of the lease were if they were unable to abide by the lease then it was automatically voided. I plan to sell it. If the new owner wants to trash it, I won’t have to clean it up

S November 5, 2017 at 8:24 pm

What about the land lords who lie to the tenants, or trick the tenants? My current land lord purposely had a light bulb burnt out in the bathroom when I came to view the apartment. In the natural light, the bathroom looked good. He also said ” Don’t worry, the light bulb is just dead, and by the way, we will clean everything” . When I moved in, he had still not replaced the light bulb. I screwed it in, and turned on the light. I fell to my knees, and almost had a stroke. The bathroom was covered head to toe in black mold. It was if someone had taken a can of black paint and painted the entire bathroom with it. Ceiling, Floors, Bath tub, sink, toilet. He never cleaned it.

Carrie November 29, 2017 at 5:40 pm

I really feel for you.
You have three separate problems and it’s best to keep them separate.

!, The tenant. Is he gone? Good. Can he prevail in court if what he is saying is false? Unlikely. In matters concerning real estate, agreements must be in writing to be enforceable.

Who is suing you? The tenant or the city?

If it’s the tenant, I don’t really understand what he is suing you over, but you don’t have to refund any rent even though he moved out early. Just go to court and tell the truth and present the documentation you have as evidence. That would include communications from him, agreements between you, maybe even photos of the property showing how nice it is.

As for the city, I hope they aren’t suing you. If they are, I think the best thing to do is go public, on Nextdoor.com or your local Patch.com. Rally some support from neighbors who don’t believe someone should be ruined over a fixable problem that was installed by someone other than themselves (even if on your behalf). If you do have to un-construct it, maybe some neighbors can assist.

Keep in mind that city employees can be power-hungry and abusive, and also wrong. If the bedroom portion was never a garage, I don’t think they can force you to make it so. Check the law yourself. With luck, it’s online.

If by any chance you are in California, a new state law requires that cities allow accessory dwelling units to be built on single-family properties. garage conversions in some cases. If you are not in California, check your city, county and state code for the specifics of what is allowed. The mere fact that something was done without permits does not normally require you to tear it down. I once recklessly converted a two-car garage to create extra accommodation. (It was a duplex and there was another two car garage that I left alone.) When I went to sell the place the buyers made a fuss and missed the closing date and demanded $40,000 off the price. I refused because I didn’t conceal the garage conversion, I disclosed it, and it was obvious anyway. A while later I noticed that the county now described the place as 400 sf larger, with an extra bedroom and bathroom. It turned out that the city had inspected it after the buyers took possession, found the work to be up to code, and sold them a retroactive permit for $500. The downside is the property was re-assessed with the square footage added, and their taxes went up. But the selling price if they ever sell will be higher, too.

Anyway, the point is that you needn’t take anyone’s word for what it allowed. Check the city’s zoning and planning laws in their written forms. Read the laws yourself, and try to find a free housing rights legal clinic for advice on how to negotiate with the city. You might be able to do is tell the city that you will not sue the space for any purpose, will cap off the pluming and electrical, and that you will eventually be able to do whatever they require. AT present, having to deal with it would wipe you out, and you request an extension of time.

Then you have a mortgage to pay. Try to buy time with the loan servicing company. There are a lot of programs these days to help people out. You shouldn’t expect true or straight answers from the mortgage company, but by calling HUD’s help line, you might find a way to get through this. That’s the place to start.

As for income, perhaps you will have to have a roommate inside your house, which means giving up more space than you want to at present. They used to say “you can get used to anything.” Some legal advice before embarking on that would also be wise, because you want the full protection of the law if things go bad.

Selecting someone who won’t pull a fast one is the key aspect of the whole enterprise. In my experience, people who say they want to rent the place before they even go home and think about it are always a problem. Usually it’s because no one else will rent to them, so they just say yes to everything right away to maximize their chances. If it isn’t that, they are impulsive, and that is associated with everything a landlord doesn’t want. Their impulses are rarely beneficial. If they don’t have a checking account, they’re a flake or a conspiracy theorist. Adios. If they lie about anything before they move in, Adios, if your rental agreement allows it. If they miss one month’s rent, in my experience, they never pay another red cent, no matter what they say. Adios.

Can you sue the former tenant, or could you if you had an attorney? I don’t think you can claim damages for what it will cost to deal with the un-permitted room, because that was always your responsibility, even if you didn’t know it and even if the city hadn’t found out yet. But if you have any other damages that were caused by him, you might be able to sue him. If you are over a certain age and qualify as elderly, the value of the damages you can sue for might increase.

Oh, and keep your communications with lenders and governments short and to the pint. State what you are asking for, show how it is mutually beneficial or how it is actually your right, ask for their consideration regarding your modest request, and don’t give up until they come with a crane to lift you out of there! (Yes, your requests are modest. Say you’re in year ten of a 30 year loan at 4% interest per year. If you didn’t pay your mortgage for a whole year, that would only amount 3% of the total amount the lender was going to collect from you over thirty years. Is that so much to ask for? Things go on sale for 10%, 20%, and even 50% off all the time. Cars never sell for the MRSP. People get rebates and bonus points from their credit cards, special 0% offers, and the like. And for the city to exercise patience would cost them nothing.)

PS If you take Tamoxifen, ask your doctor if it could be affecting your vision. It causes something similar to macular degeneration in some women. Some doctors prescribe Seroquel for insomnia. It can cause cataracts. Look at everything you’re taking just to make sure your not inadvertently damaging your eyes.

Angie February 21, 2018 at 10:18 pm

I have a tenant upstairs who moved in my 1 br rental upstairs and it was recently updated and beautiful land I charged $900 which is below market but I was recently widowed and just wanted to get it rented. He said he was alone and worked all day and occasionally his girlfriend would come to visit with his small son. Well eventually she moved in and which meant that he lied. When I confronted him about it he just “threw” another hundred dollars at me in the rent which I never asked for. Now I want him out because the child makes a racket and the girlfriend never says a word to him and they make so much noise I cannot even be in my kitchen when they are home. He never had a lease and never gave me security. I just want him to leave.

Angie February 21, 2018 at 10:21 pm

I recently totally renovated the second and third floor duplex apartment in my Victorian house next door. My real estate agent got me tenants which I was hesitant but was glad to get the place rented because I had lost so much money in rent and my husband died before construction was completed. It is a loud mouth confrontational woman and her significant other and 2 children, hers from a previous marriage, they are in their early twenties, she is late 50’s. They have 4 cars and I never allowed them to park in the driveway, that is for the first floor tenant. She complains all the time, it was never in the lease but she has fights with everyone who parks in the street near the house. There is plenty of parking but she is very loud and abusive. Her lease expired last June and I want her out. Can evict her for harassment and intimidation? The apartment is gorgeous but she complains all the time and is nasty to my contractors and even the cable man.

Michelle Cole March 4, 2018 at 4:21 pm

I have a friend who is the lndlord issued a tenant an eviction notice… the tenant then calls cops and in front of them threatened my friends life so my friend went and got a no contact ordered by a judge but then the sheriff told my friend that the tenant can still live on property dropped him off and left can the sheriff do that even if a no contact order was issued?

Lisa March 10, 2018 at 3:09 am

To Johnny,
Great ideas but when you have done all of what you have stated and still have an itinerant tenant looking for a way to get back at you what then?? I am almost ready to sell my investment because of the threats that have flown my way and these people call themselves evolved community minded what a load of hog wash doesn’t matter how much emotion you keep out of it there are scam artists everywhere.

Lisa March 10, 2018 at 3:35 am

Hi Marlene,

Please update us as to your current situation if at all possible. I am appalled as to the behavior of your previous tenant and just hope you have manged to steer a true course now and I thought I had problems.

Dawn Ward April 7, 2018 at 4:22 pm

I fell for a young lady’s sob story and now she and her boyfriend are squatting in my duplex. My father had just had a stroke when I met them so I was in a vulnerable state and allowed them to move in with less than half of the discounted move in charge. They’ve lived there 14 weeks and they’ve paid for 3 or 4. There were a few other weeks that I allowed him to work and gave him cash receipts. For the last 6 weeks they haven’t paid at all. A few weeks ago, when they only owed me for 2 weeks, he tried to bully me into letting them take my car for the weekend. He told me that if I let them, they would pay me what they owe me and if I didn’t, they would never pay me again. Today I ran into her at the mall and she started talking loudly saying “oh look she’s spending my money “ to her friend. I should have ignored her but I said “how am I spending your money when you can’t even pay your rent? YOU’RE spending my money!”

Elden Harris May 19, 2018 at 3:51 am

Hi. I let a mother of two move in with me ,with out a leasing agreement. She only paid me $140.00 but she started cussing out the son and fought the son baby momma and always threatened the with cuss words even usimg threatening words against me when all i was trying to is help her family and there grandbaby

Elden May 19, 2018 at 4:09 am

My roommate was so rude even picked a fight with my cousin who referred her to me .so in the process of me telling my roommate to leave she stole my gun she already tampered with my bank checks when i was at work and plotted with her daughter to still my income tax borrowed money from me and never paid it back .but lied to police on. Me by saying i threatened her when all i was trying to do was help her grandbaby and kids that didn’t have nowhere to go

Steven Castenguay July 30, 2018 at 6:40 pm

I have a question — not sure it can be responded to here but I have had a tenant since 2013 – a really good one. Last year, I allowed them to move into a larger room and that rent was $50 more…I also allowed my tenants to piggyback on my cable. When Time Warner sold to Spectrum, they raised my cable cost to $200 from $115 — which also supplies my Internet. I kept the Internet and have allowed my tenants to use that service but have never considered it part of the rent. Subsequent to all of that, I decided to subscribe to streaming services and went out and purchased Rocku units for all the TV as a gesture and paid for the service on Sling and others. In Ohio, were we live, Cable, Internet and phone are not part of utilities — but my tenant does not like the streaming services and is now demanding that I put cable back in and has failed to pay me for 2 months until I have cable installed again. I told them I was not doing that and that the perks for internet and cable were just me allowing you to use because it was sharable but that he would have to install his own service. Anyway, to make a longer story shorter, there is nothing in the agreement about anything other than utilities that are included in the monthly rate… but is demanding that I pay for his cable… I posted a 3 day eviction notice today and it is not going well.. but I have to stand my ground. One word of advice to anyone renting a place – never give anything anything extra just to be nice.. it never works out it seems and people always want more and more and pay less and less. Its so bad that I have to use my tenants payments to pay my bills and now I am behind because he is behind and its hurting us and our own family just over someone’s unwillingness to watch streaming channels over cable. If you offer someone something extra and allow them to use a service for fee — does that become past practice and make it a legal commitment? As I said, in Ohio those services are not required of a Landlord but they refuse to accept that answer.

Connie Hainsworth November 8, 2019 at 7:26 am

I allowed my daughter and her boyfriend to live in my house after my husband and I divorced. They are great but to help pay the mortgage they rented out rooms to some college friends. There was a third room sitting empty so they rented it out to a couple who are friends with one of the other girls. This couple moved in and I found out they have guns. I told my child I don’t like guns in my house. Well in the last few months this couple has become threatening to everyone in the house. They steal their food and use bullying to frightened them. So I want them out. They refused to sign a lease so what can I do?

Connie Hainsworth November 8, 2019 at 7:26 am

I allowed my daughter and her boyfriend to live in my house after my husband and I divorced. They are great but to help pay the mortgage they rented out rooms to some college friends. There was a third room sitting empty so they rented it out to a couple who are friends with one of the other girls. This couple moved in and I found out they have guns. I told my child I don’t like guns in my house. Well in the last few months this couple has become threatening to everyone in the house. They steal their food and use bullying to frightened them. So I want them out. They refused to sign a lease so what can I do? I live in Berkeley County, WV.

Chris November 8, 2019 at 8:43 am

Hi Connie,
Sorry to hear about the trouble you are having at your house. I’m sure it is a frightening situation. You need to contact a local attorney to discuss your options. Some attorneys offer free initial consultations. It is best to know what your rights and responsibilities are before you proceed. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you.

Mrs. Blackburn October 23, 2020 at 9:42 am

My husband and I signed an agreement to get our tenant to move at the end of the year. Before all of this it was so hard to actually get her to make any arrangements but would do things here and there to look like she was going to move soon. I later learned it was to get us to hush and pacify us for her not move out. She has done nothing but drag her feet. Now since we was about to file or eviction she finds a lawyer and yep filed the declaration for Covid. She has always been passive aggressive to the both of us since I can remember but for the last year she was nice and we actually got along until we are have to force her out. She would always single my husband and speak with him when she needs more time or what she needs to get her own place. She tried to talk us into 6 months and rent free PFFFFF. Well since everything has been filed and on documents she sent me a text last night saying that I stole some crap from her. I never touched anything of hers well I cleaned up behind her alot. Anyways she is going to start doing petty stuff like that and I have caught her snooping through my stuff. What should I do? IDK if her lawyer would actually help us on any of this bullying ways she has been for the past 3 years. Thank you for reading.

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