Tenant harassment is not something you should just live with. It’s illegal and you have the right to take action. That may seem overwhelming and confusing, but with help from fellow tenants and an attorney, you can fight back against harassment.

A recently decided case in New York, Caban v. Silver, illustrates the issues tenants may face when they are subject to harassment by their landlords. The tenants in this case were victims of numerous types of harassment from their landlords, including:

  • Having their locks changed while they were out
  • Being served with eviction notices
  • Suffering damage to their apartments and belongings
  • Theft of cash and other items such as art, clothing, jewelry, TVs and other valuables
  • Theft of personal items such as photos, medals and awards
  • Being harassed at their place of employment
  • Having the gas shut off to their unit

The court found for the plaintiffs in this case, saying that the landlords Jerry and Laura Silver engaged in harassment as defined in part by NYC Administrative code as “an act or omission by or on behalf of an owner” resulting in or meant to result in people lawfully entitled to live in the unit to leave their unit or to surrender or waive their rights to their occupancy.

Damages are a possibility in these cases

The court awarded compensatory damages to each of the five tenants ranging from $2,500 to $16,000. The court also awarded civil penalties of $6,000 for each tenant (for a total of $30,000). Additionally, the court awarded punitive damages of $5,000 to each tenant.

Each harassment case is different and this is just one example of possible results. To learn what types of damages you may be entitled to, consult with a tenants’ rights attorney. You may also want to consider forming a tenants’ association so you can present a united front to your landlord.