> When can a prospective plaintiff claim harassment in
Almost anyone can claim almost anything against another.
The facts you go on to post do not indicate law redressable harassment
(re. which see further comments below).
> A former tenant has a $ dispute with the old landlord
> and does not appreciate explanations given in writing
> via mail, fax and email and believes this may constitute
> harassment. I do not believe there has been any phone
> calls or person to person meetings.
> There were a few very legitimate deductions from the
> security deposit - including a few days of unpaid rent at
> move out.
> This tenant is demanding the ENTIRE deposit to be
> returned . . . giving no coherent reason.
You appear here to use the phrase "coherent reason" as if a synonym
only for "reason with which the landlord agrees" in the context in
which you use it. Still, it may be that the former tenant has not
provided a coherent or otherwise valid reason in support of a demand
for a refund of the entire security deposit.
It is just that - especially if (as seems) you refer to a former
residential tenant - your factually skeletal summary does include
sufficient information to enable evaluating dependably whether the
tenant has not done so and whether the landlord has sufficiently
complied with the affirmative obligations the state's comparatively
strict legislation addressed to these matters imposes on a landlord
when a residential tenant's lease has expired and the tenant has
moved. However, the latter issue - landlord compliance - can be
significant since substantial non-compliance may preclude a former
landlord from being entitled to offsets/deductions from a former
tenant's security deposit which may be authorized (such as agreed past
due but unpaid rent) if the landlord has satisfactorily complied.
> I [wonder whether] there was something in Calif
> rental law that I may have overlooked.
You are not sufficiently clear about this but there may be. Therefore,
if you have not yet done so, be sure carefully to read Calif. Civil
Code 1950.5 and 1950.7.
> To what extreme can either party go before it actually
> constitutes harassment under California Law? Any significant
A former landlord's mail, fax and email response to the merits or not
of a former tenant's claim for a security deposit refund presumably
would not constitute law redressable harassment. Nor presumably would
a former tenant's request following an exchange of communications in
which each has stated their respective claims/contentions that further
(Even so, it might be interesting - perhaps even presumption
undermining - to know why and how many times during what period the
landlord used all three modes of communication you mention.)
In Calif., "harassment" is variously defined and judicial
determinations of harassment correspondingly vary depending on the
particular civil law and penal law context of the
behavior/communications complained of.
But it probably is fair/accurate to say that a civil law judicial
finding of "harassment" would be sustained if it is based on a
credible threat of violence or pattern of stalking or on an otherwise
deliberate course of conduct directed at a specific person that is not
a constitutionally protected activity and which otherwise lacks
legitimate justification and which the targeted person experiences and
which the proverbial/law-fictive "Reasonable Person" also would
experience as seriously annoying and alarming to the point of actually
causing substantial emotional distress.
(The "Reasonable Person" element has been provided for in legislation
or has been invented by courts to moot a claim, which too often has
been of justified constitutional dimension, that relying for such
purposes only on the reported state of mind/emotion of the target is
too subjective and unlawfully vague.)
> Does one have to honor a request "not to be contacted"
> before or after any action is filed?
Perhaps you have in mind a debt collector acting as an agent for a
creditor of an individual consumer and so think you recall (if so:
basically correctly) that so-called (federal and state) "fair debt
collection practices" may be invoked by a writing that would have the
effect of requiring no further contact with the asserted debtor? If
so, then (qualifiedly): Yes. But you do not describe any such
Further, your "have to" question deflects from what may be and what I
dare guess is this practical and presumably easy to answer for oneself
Especially if (as you apparently indicate is so) the
parties have communicated with one another about
what ("coherent[ly]" or not) each contends to be the
merits of their respective claims/position and if
(without waiving the rights to sue and, in such
attempted case, to defend) one of them requests
that the other cease further communications, then
why not simply acquiesce in that request even if one
does not "have to" do so?
BTW, if litigation between the parties to whom you refer does
eventuate, limiting your question to the law related nature of
"harassment" may also be deflecting you from what might be a somewhat
related alternative - namely, to whether one of the parties to whom
you refer will sue or, if a defendant, sue by way of alleged
affirmative defense or counterclaim in a manner that is wrongfully
"frivolous" within the Calif. state law analog to FRCP 11 and thereby
be subjectable to monetary sanctions. Accordingly, still another
provision of Calif. law you may have overlooked or which later may be
worth looking at is Calif. Code of Civ. Proc. 128.7.