I just had a frightening confrontation with my landlord and I don't feel safe. What now?
posted by This sockpuppet asks awkward questions to Law & Government (44 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Background: I (thirtysomething female) rent an apartment in an otherwise single-family private house. I have no lease and at my landlords' (a married couple, man and woman) request, I have always paid the rent in cash (I strongly suspect that this is an illegal apartment, neither up to code nor reported on the landlord's taxes). I've lived here for two years. I've been in a semi-live-in relationship for about six months, with my boyfriend spending a month or two at a time living with me and then a month or so at his home hours away. My landlord - the female half of the couple, with whom I've dealt almost exclusively - expressed some discomfort with an extra person living in my apartment in the past few months due to increased utilities, etc, and we recently agreed that I would start looking for a new place to live and, in the meantime, would add a small sum to my monthly rent during months when my boyfriend was here.
Current events: My boyfriend took my dog out into the yard about two hours ago. I heard voices after a few minutes, and walked out of the apartment into the yard to see what was happening. I found my (male) landlord standing in the yard, demanding to know when my boyfriend would be leaving. I jumped in and explained that he would be leaving in a few days, in fact. This was something boyfriend and I had already figured out, and I was happy to be able to give the landlord a concrete and positive answer.
The landlord replied that he had better stay gone, and that the next time he saw my boyfriend's car in the driveway he would have it towed, then launched into a series of increasingly frenzied accusations - I had lied to them for years about being a single tenant, I had no rights to any visitors, I was living in squalor (I'm not a good housekeeper, but I assure you there are no bugs or rats or rotting food or anything in my apartment. Mostly there's dust, clutter and dog hair, and I was planning to bring in a thorough cleaning service this month prior to the apartment being shown to prospective renters) and ruining their side of the house by some sort of dust osmosis.
The accusations were followed by orders, assertions, and threats: I am to never allow my boyfriend onto the property again. I have no rights as a tenant, certainly no rights to have visitors, and no right to keep house as I see fit. The next time he sees two cars in his driveway, he will have them towed.
To my own inner amazement, I managed to stay calm throughout this tirade, asserting calmly in response that I did have rights as a tenant, whether the apartment was leased or legal or not, and that while I had already agreed to move out in the next few months, I would be more than happy to accelerate my apartment hunt, but that the fact was that I would be having my boyfriend visit sometimes, as the wife landlord and I had already agreed.
His response to that was that if I don't comply with all his orders, he will cut off my electricity, enter my apartment, and remove my appliances. He was yelling, visibly angry, and obviously ready to threaten me into submission, though he made no physical move toward me. He stated that now I'd shown my "true colors", now he "knew what I was doing", and that now he "knew how to deal with me". Cutting off electricity or prohibiting visitors are both, as far as I know, extremely illegal things for a landlord to do in my state, New York. At that point, I (again, calmly, somehow) stated that as I had told him, I would be moving out soon, was happy to compromise with them as much as possible with things like supplementing the rent, and that we seemed fated to disagree on these other matters, and I removed myself from the situation - went back inside the apartment, locked the door, and then gave in the shaking and fear I'd been suppressing.
The full-out rage with which the male landlord confronted me has, frankly, terrified me. I am not the sort of person who's prone to feeling threatened or endangered, and I've still been shaking and crying now for close to two hours. I do not feel safe alone in this apartment with that man living upstairs. He has free access to my apartment through a connecting door (locked on his side, no lock available on mine), though to my knowledge they have not ever used that door without first asking my permission. My boyfriend is here tonight and tomorrow, but is leaving on Friday, and his staying to protect me here would only exacerbate the situation, considering that the landlord wants him gone even more than me.
My boyfriend and I have been talking over what we can do since it happened, and we've called the police, who came out and were very kind, took my statement, and told me that there's nothing they can do at this point since no actual actions have been taken against me. I am under no illusions that the police can really fix this - the most their being seen here can do is make the landlord think twice about harming me or my belongings, and in the sort of rage he was in I'm not sure he'll take that into consideration, and it might enrage him farther; they're only really able to take action if/when he does do something against me or my belongings - but I'm just too shaken to think clearly about other options. I need to be gone from this apartment, preferably yesterday, obviously - but I have a apartment full of stuff, including multiple computers, televisions, furniture, clothes, and a large dog who would hurry to lick silly anyone who broke in, and I have no way to remove it all in one fell swoop and, in any case, nowhere to put it all if I did get it out. My parents live within driving distance, but don't have the capability to help me physically move, though they are providing emotional support and my mother has offered to speak to a lawyer she knows tomorrow morning for me. In the worst possible case, I can move in with them short-term, but that would make commuting to my job extremely difficult, and they have nowhere to put an apartment's worth of belongings, either. I have some emergency money to draw on, but it is indeed emergency money and would drain me financially.
Help. I don't know what my options are, and I'm too shaken to be able to think them all out rationally. I have never been in (what I perceive as) physical danger like this before, and I don't know the best steps to take or what resources are available for renters' emergencies such as this.