California law makes it illegal for a landlord or management company to harass their tenants by way of physical harassment or verbal harassment. Usually the landlord’s goal in harassing the tenant is to get the tenant to do what the landlord wants, usually it is designed to force the tenant to move out or to force the tenant to refrain from pursuing any potential legal rights they may have against the landlord.
In rent-controlled units some landlords are highly motivated to get long-term tenants to move out so that the landlord can raise the rent to market rent. Harassment of the tenant is oftentimes pursued in order to avoid costly legal fees and the hassle of a legal eviction and, most importantly, the landlord typically has no actual cause to evict the tenant other than their bad faith motivation to substantially raise the rent.
There are many ways a landlord could harass a tenant. Some examples include:
Illegal Entry. With the exception to emergencies, advance notice to the tenant is usually required before a landlord can enter the tenant’s unit. Entering a tenant’s property without warning or prior approval could be considered harassment.
Shutting Off Utilities. This violates the warranty of habitability, which means that tenants have the right to basic necessities. Sometimes such necessities are intentionally taken away by the landlord in order to harass the tenant.
Cutting Off Amenities That Were Included in Lease Agreement. This could include taking away a tenant’s parking spot or cutting off their access to laundry services.
Refusing to Make Repairs/Perform Maintenance. A landlord may attempt to make the conditions at the property uncomfortable by refusing to make repairs to the unit or perform requested or necessary maintenance.
Verbally Threatening the Tenant. A landlord may use their words to intimidate the tenant over the phone, in person or in writing, such as in text messages, emails or written letters.
Physically Threatening the Tenant. A landlord could try to pressure a tenant using physical harassment. This could include using their body to block a tenant’s exit from a room, getting in a tenant’s face or even putting their hands on the tenant or using other physical means against the tenant.
Refusing to Accept a Rent Payment. A landlord may attempt to intimidate a tenant into moving or threaten the tenant to take back a complaint by refusing to accept the tenant’s rent payment.
Changing the Locks. A landlord may change the locks on common area doors or on the actual entry doors to the tenant’s unit or even barricade these doors.
Removing Possessions From Unit. A landlord could physically move a tenant’s possessions out of the rental property without the tenant’s permission.
Raising Rent. Demanding more money when it is not permitted by the Lease terms, or without the proper notice could be a form of harassment.
Buyout. A buyout is when a landlord tries to get the tenant to accept a sum of money to move out of the unit by a certain date. Repeated attempts to buy out the tenant after the tenant has refused may be considered harassment.
Construction Related Nuisances. If a landlord begins construction with the sole purpose of disturbing the tenant, this could be considered harassment. It could include working during early morning or late at night, leaving construction debris everywhere or physically blocking the entrance to the tenant’s apartment.
The experienced attorneys at the Harouni Law Group can help you in these situations. With the help of our attorneys we can determine if you have been wrongfully harassed by your landlord and can help you receive the financial compensation you deserve.