How to tell if a landlord is abusing tenants

If you see a landlord behaving badly, you may want to take his or her complaints to an agency.

If you do not, tenants should be warned that it is against the law to evict or rent to someone who has abused tenants, says the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. 

It is not a criminal offense to evict someone who is abusive, but the law provides specific protections for tenants in the event that their rent is being paid, says Sarah Stott, the center’s legal director. 

If you believe that someone you know has abused your tenant, you can file a complaint with the National Housing Alliance, the National Association of Realtors, or your local state housing authority. 

The National Law Centers report says the problem with landlords is that they are so accustomed to keeping people in their apartments, it can take years for them to learn about how to deal with their tenants.

It notes that many landlords will not disclose abusive practices because they fear they will be accused of racism. 

“We’re hearing a lot of landlords say, ‘You’re an asshole for not coming forward sooner,'” Stott said. 

Landlords are not allowed to keep tenants from exercising their right to unionize, so when they violate their own rules, they can be held responsible.

Stott says it is important for landlords to understand that they have the right to refuse to rent to tenants with certain mental illnesses or addiction problems.

“Landlords can’t refuse to give the tenant a job, and the law is saying that landlords have the same rights as landlords to refuse that job to someone with a mental illness or addiction problem,” she said.

Stott notes that landlords need to be aware of the law if they want to evict a tenant who has been a frequent visitor to the rental property. 

A tenant may have repeatedly violated the lease or other terms of the lease. 

An eviction can also be a violation of the Tenant Protection Act, which protects tenants from having their housing or belongings taken away, Stott explained. 

When you complain about an abusive landlord, the most important thing is to follow the rules and be aware that you may be breaking the law, Stotts advice to tenants. 

For more information on tenant rights and issues, visit the National Center for Homelessness and Poverty at or call 1-800-829-6277. 

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