Landlord harassment is not something you tend to see outside of the LandlordsNY Forum. In fact, most people would scoff at the very idea that a tenant can harass a landlord. However, anyone can harass another person so long as they routinely threaten them or make them feel uncomfortable. Consequently, landlord harassment does exist, even if it is relatively uncommon.
This installment of the Case of the Week examines one such example. Not only did the tenant harass the landlord; she also harassed several other tenants and created numerous nuisances. Many tenants feared for their safety because of the actions of this tenant. On top of creating dangerous conditions by obstructing key points of ingress and egress, she actively confronted and threatened other tenants with abusive language. Some tenants said she would regularly enter the shared garden during parties and other events uninvited and hurl vulgarities at them. Even when she did not enter the garden space, she would routinely scream from her window and make enjoyment of the space impossible. She also left threatening notes, accused other tenants of stealing non-existent packages, and purposefully let her dog bark for hours on end.
As to her landlord, she sometimes sent hundreds of emails per day that were, to use the phrasing of the Court, “threatening, foul and belligerent.” They ranged from “repair requests, to threats to spray individuals with pepper spray, to offensive racist remarks about tenants in the building.” In all, the tenant sent more than 11,000 emails to her landlord over the span of a few years.
Eventually, the landlord commenced a holdover proceeding against the tenant, who lives in a rent controlled unit, based on a nuisance claim. The Court noted that, “Under New York City Rent Control Law, 9 NYCRR § 2204.2(a)(2), a tenant provides for a tenant's eviction where: ‘The tenant is committing or permitting a nuisance in such housing accommodations; or is maliciously or by reason of gross negligence substantially damaging the housing accommodation; or his conduct is such as to interfere substantially with the comfort and safety of the landlord or of other tenants or occupants of the same or another adjacent building or structure.’" The Court also pointed out that a “...nuisance is a condition that threatens the comfort and safety of others in the building and a key definition is a pattern of continuity or recurrence of objectionable conduct.”
The landlord submitted the emails from tenant as evidence; called tenants in the building to provide testimony about their experiences with the belligerent tenant; and documented other malicious behavior by tenant, which included, among other things, removing or taping over security cameras, throwing garbage or other items from her fourth floor window, and maintaining as many as 60 bags of garbage in her hallway. During one particularly acrimonious encounter with the police, as many as 30 officers had to come to arrest the tenant.
For all these reasons, a final judgment of possession was entered against the tenant and in favor of the landlord on February 15, 2019. However, the warrant of eviction and execution of the warrant of eviction was stayed to April 30, 2019. The reason for this, according to the Court, was “for respondent to vacate with dignity and obtain relocation assistance from her Article 81 Guardian.” Additionally, a money judgment was entered against the tenant and in favor of the landlord in the amount of $8,872.08, as the tenant had not paid rent since February 2018.
What to take away: If you have a tenant who makes your life and the lives of your tenants miserable, document everything. A judge will be able to ignore your claims of harassment when they are hearsay, but not when they’re submitted as written evidence or testimony. You may not need 11,000 threatening emails or the testimony of a dozen other tenants to prove your case, but you will need to demonstrate a pattern of bad behavior.