Can a Tenant Break a Lease Due to Landlord Harassment?

Last Updated: May 10, 2024 by Roberto Valenzuela

Tenants will be able to break a lease early when a landlord continuously harasses the tenant or disrupts their enjoyment of the premises.

What Qualifies as Landlord Harassment

Landlord harassment is when the landlord creates conditions or behaves in a manner that intimidates the tenant or pushes the tenant to break the lease agreement or otherwise abandon the rental property that he or she is currently occupying. By doing this, the landlord is directly infringing upon the tenant’s right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property.

Repeated or Surprise Landlord Entry

Entering tenants’ homes too often or without sufficient notice qualifies as landlord harassment in every state.

State Required Entry Notice
Alabama 48 Hours
Alaska 24 Hours
Arizona 48 Hours
Arkansas No Notice Time Specified
California Reasonable Notice
Colorado Reasonable Notice
Connecticut Reasonable Notice
Delaware 48 Hours
Florida 24 Hours
Georgia No Notice Time Specified
Hawaii 48 Hours
Idaho No Statute
Illinois No Statute
Indiana Reasonable Notice
Iowa 24 Hours
Kansas Reasonable Notice
Kentucky 48 Hours
Louisiana No Notice Time Specified
Maine 24 Hours
Maryland No Statute
Massachusetts Reasonable Notice
Michigan No Statute
Minnesota Reasonable Notice
Mississippi Reasonable Notice
Missouri No Statute
Montana 24 Hours
Nebraska Reasonable Notice
Nevada Reasonable Notice
New Hampshire Reasonable Notice
New Jersey 24 Hours
New Mexico Reasonable Notice
New York No Statute
North Carolina No Statute
North Dakota Reasonable Notice
Ohio 24 Hours
Oklahoma 24 Hours
Oregon 24 Hours
Pennsylvania No Statute
Rhode Island 48 Hours
South Carolina 24 Hours
South Dakota No Statute
Tennessee 24 Hours
Texas No Statute
Utah 24 Hours
Vermont 48 Hours
Virginia 24 Hours
Washington 48 Hours
Washington, D.C. Reasonable Notice
West Virginia No Statute
Wisconsin Reasonable Notice
Wyoming No Statute

Reasonable notice is deemed to be what a person would reasonably recognize as a minimum acceptable time frame, depending on circumstances.

For states that have no statute regarding the notice required for a landlord to enter a tenant’s home, there is still an implied notion that the landlord will provide some sort of notice prior to entering.

Constructive Eviction

When a landlord substantially interferes with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the premise, the tenant may consider themselves to be constructively evicted. Common examples of a landlord’s breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment include:

  • Shutting off utilities
  • Limiting a tenant’s access to certain amenities
  • Failing to resolve issues related to the premises or common areas
  • Acting in a discriminatory manner towards the tenant

These common examples can be considered harassment. When the harassment becomes so bad that the tenant feels they cannot enjoy the premise anymore, they will be able to terminate the lease.

Engaging in Discrimination

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landlord may not discriminate against a tenant based on race, religion, national origin, disability, and gender. Discrimination based on any of these factors is deemed to be harassment.


Many states also add protected categories to their local discrimination laws. For example, in Illinois and California, it’s illegal to discriminate against actual or potential tenants based on their immigration status.

Verbal or Physical Intimidation

A landlord may not threaten tenants in any way. Verbal threats, threats of physical violence, or actual physical contact are all examples of landlord harassment. Threats do not necessarily have to only be in-person. Threats can occur over the phone or in writing.

Unlawful Eviction

When a landlord evicts a tenant, there are specific procedures as outlined by state laws. Although procedures may vary from state to state, it generally involves:

  1. Sending a Notification to Cure or Vacate 
  2. Filing an eviction lawsuit if the tenant fails to or refuses to remedy the situation
  3. Allowing the tenant time to respond to the complaint and summons
  4. Obtaining judgment from the court
  5. Removing the tenant with the help of law enforcement

When a landlord does not follow the necessary state procedures in filing an eviction, the landlord may be liable for harassing the tenant.

How to Prove or Verify Landlord Harassment

A tenant may prove or verify landlord harassment by keeping written records of any harassment or taking photos, if possible. At the hearing, a landlord may be able to counter this with similar evidence.

For example, a tenant may provide a court with pictures of an exterior door with no locks. In turn, the landlord may present evidence that the landlord was required to change the locks and show the court a receipt from a locksmith with an installation date for a new lock.

How to Terminate a Lease Due to Landlord Harassment

To terminate a lease for landlord harassment, a tenant must have proof of the harassment and receive court approval.

If the tenant notifies the landlord of the harassment and the harassment doesn’t stop, the tenant would be able to file an official complaint with the court. Once a complaint has been filed, the court will decide whether there is enough evidence to show that the tenant was, in fact, harassed.

If the landlord is found to have harassed the tenant, the court will grant the tenant the ability to terminate the lease.

What is Not Considered Landlord Harassment

There are landlord  actions that may appear to be harassment, but in fact are not:

Entering Property for Emergencies

A landlord is allowed to enter the premises when there is an emergency. In these cases, the landlord does not have to provide notice and can go ahead and enter the property.

One example of this is if the fire alarm goes off in the property. If the landlord believes that there could be a fire in the property, they may enter.

Raising Rent

Raising rent is actually permitted as long as proper notice is provided and is done so at the end of the lease term. If the landlord gives the proper notice that rent is going to be raised, they can raise it a certain percentage. In most states, required notice is about 30 days. Anything less than that can be considered illegal and thus, harassment.

Read More

Filing A Legal Eviction

A landlord can  file a legal eviction. This eviction can be related to the tenant’s rent payment, illegal activity, tenant harassment, or anything else that warrants an eviction.

However, if a tenant is evicted for an illegal reason, then it would be considered landlord harassment

Read More

Changing Locks Legally

The one legal instance where a landlord can change locks without notifying the tenant is in the case of domestic violence.