As a tenant, landlord harassment is a significant issue. While they may own the property, Florida’s laws outline that you have a right to occupy it in peace, without undue disturbance or discrimination. If landlords overstep the mark, there can be consequences. 

So, can a tenant be compensated for landlord harassment? Yes, financial compensation is certainly one of the options available. Though, there are other forms of recourse and the route to resolution can certainly depend on the circumstances. 

Let’s take a closer look at the issue of landlord harassment, how tenants like you can effectively respond, and — if necessary — how compensation factors into the process.

What is Landlord Harassment?

So, before we get into the weeds of compensation, it’s important to understand what actually constitutes landlord harassment. Naturally, you’re not likely to be able to sue simply because your landlord makes a phone call to you to chase-up on late rent payments. There really needs to be clear breaches of the basic tenets related to your rights to privacy, to not face discrimination, and — if appropriate — that an eviction was lawful. 

Some examples of harassment might include:

  • Intrusions into your living space: Landlords are generally required to provide notice before entering a rental unit, except in emergencies. If a landlord frequently enters without proper notice or justification, it can create an atmosphere of invasion of privacy. This may constitute harassment, particularly if it occurs frequently.
  • Misuse of their power to control essential services: This may include deliberately disrupting utility services such as water, electricity, or heating, with the intent to coerce or force the tenant into some form of action. Florida law prohibits this type of behavior, emphasizing the landlord’s obligation to maintain these services throughout the tenancy.
  • Verbal abuse or threats: Unreasonable and aggressive communication from the landlord can cause emotional distress and make the living situation untenable. Landlords are explicitly prohibited landlords from engaging in any conduct that disturbs a tenant’s peace. Even if you have been late on your rent, abuse and threats — other than a reasonable warning regarding legal eviction action being taken — is not warranted.
  • Retaliatory actions by the landlord: If your landlord has had disagreements with you in the past, for instance, if you exercise your legal rights to report code violations or file complaints, the landlord might take what is known as retaliatory action. They could seek  unwarranted evictions or demand rent increases. This may also be considered harassment in some circumstances.

What Resolution Options Are In Place for Tenants?

Florida, like many states, recognizes the fundamental importance of safeguarding tenants’ rights and protecting them from landlord harassment. Tenants in the state benefit from a robust legal framework alongside industry standards. Many are enshrined under different sections of the state statutes. For instance, Title VI, Chapter 83, Section 53 prohibits the landlord from abusing rights of access. These elements can be complex, so it’s always wise to collaborate with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to establish the right statutes and recourse related to harassment.

Due to our current caseload, our office simply does not the have the resources
needed to dedicate to any additional tenant legal matters.
Any tenant-specific legal matters should be referred to the following organization:
Lawyer Referral Service Online (available 24/7) —
or Phone (800) 342-8011 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Nevertheless, some of the options for resolution that you could pursue as a tenant facing harassment include:

Lawsuits related directly to emotional or physical harm

One direct avenue for seeking resolution is to pursue compensation through the civil court system. Tenants who have experienced harassment can file a lawsuit against their landlord, seeking damages for emotional distress, any physical harm caused, and other losses resulting from the harassment. However, it’s important to remember that these types of cases — particularly related to emotional distress — tend to rely on clear evidence. Your attorney can help guide you here.

Lawsuits related to specific expenses

Seeking resolution through compensation for emotional distress is certainly more challenging than pursuing clear and specific financial losses related to harassment. These can be related to medical bills that are the result of your landlord’s behavior, relocation expenses due to unlawful evictions, and even costs such as installing security equipment to protect yourself from unauthorized landlord entry. Your lawyer will be able to help you present this to the civil courts to show there is a clear connection to harassment.

Criminal charges

In some instances, landlord harassment may go beyond civil liability and into criminal behavior. This is most often related to committing or threatening physical violence and other forms of abuse. In these instances, tenants can make a complaint directly to the police. If appropriate, you can also engage an attorney to petition the criminal court handling the case to highlight damages you have experienced, which may prompt the judge to include financial restitution to you as part of a punishment.

Mediation or arbitration

A landlord harassment matter doesn’t necessarily have to go to court for a tenant to receive a positive outcome. Mediation and arbitration usually involves attorneys representing both parties and may be facilitated by a mediator experienced in landlord disputes. This is aimed at giving both parties a chance to present their sides of the matter and reach a mutually agreeable settlement. While it’s possible to do this without a lawyer present, this can make tenants vulnerable to agreeing to terms that don’t adequately address the harm caused by the harassment.

How Tenants Should Respond to Harassment

Attorneys talking with one another
Compensation for landlord harassment is usually the last step in a process. There are various actions that need to take place before reaching this outcome. When tenants find themselves subjected to landlord harassment in Florida, understanding the proper course of action is crucial should a claim become necessary.

This should include:

Document thoroughly

The first step for tenants facing harassment is to meticulously document each incident. This includes a detailed record that includes dates, times, descriptions of the harassment, and any communication. This record in itself can become evidence when reporting the harassment to relevant authorities or pursuing legal recourse. It’s also important to collect other forms of evidence of harassment. This could be screen grabs of text messages or emails the landlord sends. It could also include video or photographic evidence of their behavior. Footage from doorbell cameras has become increasingly useful here.

Report to authorities

Tenants in Florida have the option to report landlord harassment to local housing authorities. These agencies are tasked with overseeing housing regulations and ensuring compliance with state and local laws. Filing a complaint with the housing authority initiates an official investigation into the allegations of harassment, and if violations are found, the landlord may be subject to penalties and corrective actions. Not to mention that it provides another point of evidence should you choose to seek compensation.

Collaborate with an attorney

If it becomes necessary to seek compensation or other forms of recourse, this is the point at which you reach out to an attorney. They’ll discuss the details of the harassment you’ve received, the evidence you’ve collated, and the steps you’ve taken to address the matter so far. Your attorney can then advise you of the most appropriate course of action and create a plan for petitioning the courts and presenting your case. They’ll also likely advise you to keep collecting evidence throughout the process, as retaliatory action is not unusual and can also lead to compensation.

Due to our current caseload, our office simply does not the have the resources
needed to dedicate to any additional tenant legal matters.
Any tenant-specific legal matters should be referred to the following organization:
Lawyer Referral Service Online (available 24/7) —
or Phone (800) 342-8011 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Regain Your Peace of Mind

In the end, addressing landlord harassment isn’t just about getting financially compensated. It’s about making certain you feel safe and secure in the home you rent, which is well within your rights. If you’re uncertain whether what you’ve experienced constitutes harassment or how best to proceed, reaching out to an experienced real estate attorney is a solid first step.