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How Can I Prove My Landlord is Harassing Me?

How Can I Prove My Landlord is Harassing Me?

How Can I Prove My Landlord is Harassing Me?

15Nov

How Can I Prove My Landlord is Harassing Me?

Being harassed in your own home is simply wrong. It violates the basic concepts of privacy and security that a home should represent. And when the harassment comes from your landlord, it can be difficult to know what steps you can or should take to protect yourself. Our firm is dedicated to helping tenants better understand their rights, so they can respond quickly and confidently to stop tenant harassment.

Tenant harassment can take many forms, but most involve threats and actions designed to force tenants to move out of their homes. Bay Area tenants, especially those with valuable rent-controlled apartments, have reported numerous incidents of landlord harassment which are intended to make them leave so the rent can be increased. While there are laws that prohibit this conduct, it can be difficult to prove unlawful harassment actually occurred. In fact, many tenants question whether their rights were violated.

Conduct Qualifying as Tenant Harassment in California

Landlords and their agents, including relatives or property managers, may not harass their tenants. While this includes criminal harassment, such as stalking, landlord harassment is actually quite broad and includes making inappropriate comments or demands, unlawful rent increases, and legal threats or violations of the tenant’s rights. Conduct considered harassment under Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.2 and S.F. Ordinance § 37.10B includes:

  • Unlawfully entering the property
  • Interfering with the tenant’s right to peaceably enjoy the premises
  • Extortion and property theft
  • Threatening to disclose occupants’ immigration status or requesting citizenship documentation
  • Making verbal or physical threats of violence
  • Interrupting or failing to provide housing services, including shutting off utilities
  • Refusing to make timely repairs
  • Refusing to cash rent checks after 30 days
  • Refusing to accept rent payments
  • Influencing or attempting to influence a tenant to vacate through fraud or intimidation

Unlike traditional harassment, to prove a case for tenant harassment requires showing the act was done in bad faith. This means the landlord must undertake the above actions for an unlawful purpose, such as generally pressuring tenants to move out or accept buyout agreements. Proving subjective bad faith can be difficult, but an experienced tenants’ rights attorney may be able to help.

Obtaining Evidence of Bay Area Tenant Harassment

Unlawful tenant harassment often occurs when owners want to remove rent-controlled tenants to charge higher prices. If your landlord makes unreasonable demands or says something offensive in writing, it is important to keep these documents as proof of bad faith. However, in many instances, a landlord’s harassment may be done verbally or through their actions. In these situations, we strongly recommend memorializing the harassing event in writing. That means following up the incident with a letter or email to your landlord where you detail what occurred. It is critical that you do this closely in time to the event, and that you sign/date it and keep a copy for your records. You might also consider recording your conversations with your landlord – though it is important that you do this openly – that is, with their knowledge. Judges may accept the tenant’s sworn testimony as circumstantial evidence of harassment, but written evidence goes a long way.

Tenants in San Francisco may also prove landlord harassment by showing unlawful rent increases immediately after they rejected buyout offers. Section 37.10(B)(a)(5) states that showing rent increases substantially above comparable market rates within six months of the allegedly harassing conduct can prove that landlord harassment occurred. Unlawfully harassed residents may also be able to support their claim by demanding security footage, setting up lawful security cameras to record the harassment, and obtaining witness testimony from neighbors.

Obtaining Damages for Tenant Harassment with the Help of Wolford Wayne LLP

Bay Area tenants subject to landlord harassment might recover compensatory damages, such as the cost of moving expenses and emotional distress, as well as statutory penalties and attorney’s fees. At Wolford Wayne LLP, our experienced tenant rights lawyers might even use evidence of harassment to stop eviction proceedings and reduce unlawfully increased rent. To discuss your harassment claims with our dedicated San Francisco tenant protection team, call (415) 649-6203 or contact us online.

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