Can I break my lease if my landlord is harassing me?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I break my lease if my landlord is harassing me?

The landlord’s son showed up at the house unannounced on Sunday. My husband was working and I had gone into the kitchen to get a glass of water before getting in the shower. I looked at the kitchen window and saw him coming towards the house, I know he saw me. The problem being that I was pretty much naked. There are windows next to the front door and sliding glass doors all around the house. He knocked on the door and I dropped to the floor. After banging on the door, he proceeded to go to every door and knock while peeking in the windows, with me laying on the floor. I have never felt so violated in my life. I sent him a text message telling him how I felt about his encroachment on my personal space. I informed him that he was not to contact me or show up at the house without speaking to my husband. He apologized and agreed. Well the next morning, at 7:30 am he showed up again, knowing that my husband wasn’t home banging on

the door again. He then called me but I did not answer. He sent me a text

message telling me that he left a notice to vacate the premises. He stated that we were 2 months behind. Ugh, that was news to me and I forwarded him the cancelled checks and told him that he was mistaken. Well he informed me that he would be by first thing in the morning to collect his father’s rent. New Link Destination
which I replied that he would do no such thing and we would do as we have for the past 3 years and send to his father’s P.O. box. Well he continued to send me messages, telling me that it’s my fault, that I should have come to the door for him. He also continues to state that we owe him rent? I am now fearful of being in the house alone. We have 4 months left on the lease. Am I expected to live in fear of this guy for that time or can I move out? I don’t know what to do. I have sent a request for notice if someone wants to come to the house, and also stated that he was not to contact me, but my husband as I felt extremely violated and concerned with his behavior, and yet he continues to text message me. What are my rights?

Asked on February 28, 2017 under Real Estate Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) Send the landlord a written notice, sent some way or ways you can prove delivery, detailing what is happening, that his son has ignored your request to not contact you, and that he is denying you the "quiet enjoyment" of your rental. Further inform him that if this happens again after his receipt of your notice, you will consider the lease terminated and you "constructively evicted" due to the harassment and denial of quiet enjoyment. Then you should be able to move out early.
(Quiet enjoyment: the law gives all renters the right to enjoy their rentals without undue harassment from or disturbance by the landlord or persons under his control. This right is made part of the lease by the law, and violating it is equivalent to a breach of the lease by the landlord.)
2) If you feel threatened or that he is stalking or harassing you, you should file a police report about this--you want to put this on record. While there, ask the officer(s) about the procedure for filing for a restraining order, should you need one.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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