If my landlord is harassing me, do I file an order of protection?

Landlord calling over 5 times a day asking about rent and threatening me with late fees he says he hasn’t received rent. I mailed it 5 days ago. He showed up at my door today demanding rent.

Asked on July 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There's a specific section of the NY Real Property Law (Sec.  235-d) which provides certain tenants with a remedy for harassment as defined in that section of the law. However, it only applies "within a city having a population of one million or more..." and to "any landlord of a building which at any time was occupied for manufacturing or warehouse purposes..." That law states that it is "unlawful and shall constitute harassment for any landlord...to engage in any course of conduct...which interferes with or disturbs the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of a tenant in the tenant's use or occupancy of rental space if such conduct is intended to cause the tenant (i) to vacate a building or part thereof; or (ii) to surrender or waive any rights of such tenant under the tenant's written lease or other rental agreement." The remedy the law provides is that "a tenant may apply to the supreme court for an order enjoining acts or practices which constitute harassment under... this section; and upon sufficient showing, the supreme court may issue a temporary or permanent injunction, restraining order or other order..." This remedy is "in addition to all other powers and remedies in relation to harassment including the award  of  damages."

This law would not apply to the facts in your situation unless those facts meet the specific requirements outlined in this section of the law. That said, you may still be entitled to seek an injunction from supreme court if the supreme court, under its equitable powers, finds that a landlord's repeated calling of a tenant, including, calling at unreasonable hours of the day & night, is a course of conduct that warrants the issuance of an injunction. As a practical matter, the costs of starting a case in supreme court may be a burdensome expense for many tenants.

The NY Penal Law (Sec. 240.26) defines harassment in the second degree to be when "with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person:...He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose...Harassment in the second degree is a violation." You may want to check with local law enforcement to see if they would issue a summons to the landlord for harassment in the second degree based upon a written complaint by you alleging the landlord's course of conduct against you. This would be handled in the local criminal court & would not involve the expense & relative complexity of a supreme court civil case for an injunction.

Under the law, a landlord is required to prove that he first made an oral or written demand for rent owed, before starting a nonpayment of rent proceeding in the local court. He can knock on your door at a reasonable hour of the day & orally demand the rent. Of course, you're under no obligation to come to the door, in which case he can always serve a written rent demand upon you. Lastly, a landlord can only seek late fees if there is a late fee clause in a written lease. Good luck! 


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