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What is tenant harassment?

Having a difficult tenant may make a landlord wish there was some way to encourage that tenant to move elsewhere. However, if the tenant believes the landlord is guilty of harassment, it could lead to legal issues. In fact, the tenant may file a claim of harassment in Housing Court. 

Here are actions the law considers to be tenant harassment in New York City.

Creating issues through repairs, utilities or construction

When a landlord is aware of repairs needed and does not take care of them in a timely manner, the law will probably side with the tenant that this is harassment. The landlord must also not interrupt services such as the tenant's electricity, water or heat.

Construction may also constitute harassment if it takes place late at night, blocks entrances, or results in excess debris and dust the landlord does not remove in a timely manner. 

Offering a buyout

It is not necessarily illegal to try to get tenants to move out by paying them. Any buyout offer must not involve any of the following, though:

  • Threats, intimidation or obscenities
  • False information about the offer
  • Contact with the tenant at his or her place of employment, unless the landlord has written notice of consent to do so

A buyout is legal if it includes, in writing, that the intent of the contact is to offer a buyout, and that the owner of the apartment is the one making the offer. This document must also tell the tenant he or she may reject the buyout offer and remain in the apartment, and that he or she has the right to legal assistance.

Tenants who receive a buyout offer may notify the owner, in writing, that they do not wish the owner to contact them about the buyout again. The owner must not attempt to contact the tenant for the next 180 days.

Communicating illegally

Any repeated unwanted contact, particularly if it is late at night or during nonbusiness hours, could be harassment. Lying to a tenant about violations, material facts, occupancy status or rent stabilization status is also harassment, as is a lawsuit against the tenant that the court determines is frivolous. 

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