In an effort to kick you out of the place, your landlord might be harassing you in anyway possible. My friend Sue had her fair share just about 6 months ago, when his landlord did all sorts of crazy things after she sent him a note and he resented. According to Sue, when it rains, it really pours because of the clogged pipes and broken gutters. This happened every time it rains making the place inhospitable for a growing family she’s trying to raise.
Okay, let’s be clear, harassment of any kind is inhuman. If you’re living in New York, the Tenant Protection Act has a long list of actions that can be interpreted as harassment such as:
- using force or threats
- interruptions of the basic services (e.g. electricity, hot water, repairs and maintenance, etc.)
- do something stupid to interrupt your quiet and peaceful occupancy
- filing of unfounded court actions
Clearly, what his landlord did was against the law because apart from not fixing the apartment, he deliberately cut the basic services which the law legally afforded to Sue or anyone else for that matter. The law also extends this list to include sexual harassment or assault. These include physical or verbal attacks, and anything that suggests that he [the landlord] will carry out the repairs only after she [my friend] condones with his sexual desires. Whether or not this type of harassment is taken in an effort to get someone out of the premises, filing a sexual harassment complaint should put this to an end.
Rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments are handled by the New York State Department of Housing and Community (DCHR), this is where you file your complaint, otherwise bring it to your Housing Court. In the case of sexual harassment, the New York City Commission on Human Rights handles that in addition to DCHR.
If the landlord is found guilty of such acts, he could face a fine of $2,000 and up to $10,000 for repeated violations as per DHCR policies. DHCR would also freeze any request for rent increase if there is a harassment case being heard.
Should you withhold the rent if your landlord vehemently ignores your maintenance request?
Yes, you can ONLY if you have secured a court order for that. I know it’s awful and sad if your landlord doesn’t take actions to repair broken fixtures in your apartment, but we have to follow the protocol, and the protocol says that anyone who withholds the rent without a court order can be evicted. Do not stop paying rent just because you have unsettled issues with your landlord.
What you can do instead…
Some states allow tenants to hire their own professional and just deduct the cost from the rent but this needs a court order too. You might want to check this with your local housing court before doing anything. Also, don’t forget to take pictures of those damages and then file a report from your fire department and the police. You’re going to need those should you be in court.
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