When Does a Landlord’s Behavior Become Tenant Harassment?
Long Island has strict laws governing the interactions between landlord and tenant. In fact, taking certain actions against your tenant can even result in felony or misdemeanor charges. More often, it results in civil penalties.
Either way, they’re penalties you don’t want to face.
Some of the things which count as harassment may surprise you.
Getting too aggressive about buyouts.
Buyouts can be a nice way to divest yourself of rent-controlled apartments. Still, you have to be careful how you offer them. Ask improperly, or too often, and you could be charged with harassment.
The right way to offer a buyout is to do so in writing. Be open to a “no.” If the tenant says they don’t want to be bought out then you aren’t allowed to contact them for another six months. Mark the date and walk away. You can ask again when the time is up.
Unjustified eviction notices.
You can evict a tenant if they aren’t paying rent or are violating your lease, but you still have to follow the proper procedures.
It starts with a series of notices. First, you must send the tenant a written Demand for Cure letter giving the tenant 14 days to pay the rent or to vacate. You can only begin eviction proceedings if the tenant doesn’t correct the problem or leave.
If the problem is a lease violation and not nonpayment you can give the tenant ten days.
If the tenant runs out of time you can file a petition with the court. You’ll have to go to the hearing. At that point, a judge will decide if you can evict the tenant.
Some landlords start taking lots of crazy actions when they want to evict a tenant. They engage in threats, or intimidation. They may lock the tenant out unjustly or start removing possessions. All of these are harassment, and illegal.
Nobody ever said running a property was easy. It can get expensive.
Nevertheless you are responsible for maintaining your property in safe, livable condition. That means you have to address problems like mold, pests, power outages, and heat emergencies promptly.
You also aren’t allowed to shut off services unreasonably, like water.
If you’re doing construction you must send a notice about the permits issued, the work scheduled, and the service interruptions the work will cause. You must also provide information about how tenants can keep themselves safe during ongoing work.
New laws make this information more important than ever.
There have been some shifts in the law. In the past, tenants had to show their landlord’s action caused them physical injury and intended to do so before criminal charges could be filed. Now tenants only have to prove the landlord harassed them.
If you’re not sure whether delaying a repair or starting a new construction project will cause problems, speak to your Long Island real estate lawyer before you begin.