I'm not looking for legal advice from a lawyer.

I'm living in a shared house with a bunch of young people and one is trying to provoke a fight with me. After getting in my face and trying to instigate a fight he says "what are you going to do? you can't hit me because you're 7 years older than me!" Is there any legal remedies for this? I'm moving out and the landlord doesn't care about his behavior. I was thinking, can a police officer be called over? Last night I had a female guest and he made her feel really uncomfortable, and he woke everyone up in the house at 3am by yelling at me. I can go to my bedroom and close the door but then I don't get access to the rest of the house. For what it's worth, he's twice my size but I would love the opportunity to pummel him. If he takes the first swing then it's self defense, right?

  • So a person tells you that you can't hit them, and you're asking if police will do anything about that?
    – user3851
    Apr 17, 2016 at 1:25
  • @Dawn that's what he says after he tries to provoke a fight.
    – schaz
    Apr 17, 2016 at 23:47
  • Wait.. Does he want to fight? Or does he think you will not be able to hit him? I don't see how you can have it both ways.
    – user3851
    Apr 18, 2016 at 1:36
  • @Dawn I don't understand your comment/question ? I'm minding my own business and he comes up trying to start trouble.
    – schaz
    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:22

2 Answers 2


To start off, you appear to be confusing assault and battery. Assault does not require physical contact in order for it to occur. Verbal assault is still a crime, but in your situation it doesn't appear that any verbal assault has occurred - he is not actively threatening you with harm, and you are not in fear of being harmed. Yelling can sometimes qualify as verbal assault, but any form of verbal assault is very hard to prove because it leaves no evidence. Unless someone other than the two parties involved comes forward, it likely won't go anywhere.

Assuming this has been going on for some time, what you appear to be experiencing is harassment which usually qualifies as a civil matter, and police will not take any action other than asking one of you to leave in order to resolve the issue. Most often, they will ask you (as the person being harassed) to leave, but that can also be in your benefit. If you can prove the other person's harassment caused you to have to leave in order to be comfortable again, then you can claim damages and can sue that other person for the harassment - basically suing for damages of not being able to live in and enjoy your residence which you pay for, as well as any additional costs you encountered by having to find an alternate place to live because of their actions.

Again, this is difficult to prove without someone else who has witnessed the continued harassment stepping forward (e.g. your guest who might have only witnessed it once is probably not an incredibly strong witness, because harassment is often defined as having persisted over time, and they cannot testify to more than what they saw in one night). The case would likely just devolve to a matter of "he-said" between the two of you - he will likely claim you just didn't like him and are making things up to get money out of him. You'd need to make sure you have other evidence that supports your side of the story.

As far as claiming self-defense, my completely non-legal and mostly combination of "I wish this were common sense" and "I hate when people try to justify unneeded violence" advice is never rely on the self-defense plea. Unless you are in fear of your life, your best course of action if he threatens violence or actually hits you is to leave and let the police handle it. If you have physical marks on you and he has none on him, the case becomes much more clear-cut. If you fight back, and you both have marks, then it again becomes a case of "he-said" and it's hard to prove who initiated the confrontation without cooperating witnesses, and you'd likely both end up being arrested when the police showed up if they can't determine who the instigator was. Just because you know something was in self-defense doesn't necessarily mean the police, a judge, or a jury will believe you.

Ultimately, if you're uncomfortable with the place you're living, you should start planning to move elsewhere immediately (which you appear to be doing). If you can both a) avoid financial damages to yourself by preventing yourself being put into a situation that requires you to move quickly without much planning and b) prevent the continued harassment - then you should. Don't let the pot just keep boiling over until it explodes all over the kitchen. You have the power to make this stop too, and you shouldn't rely on other people making the situation go away for you (e.g. your landlord is bound by a contract, and evicting a tenant based on your word can open them to a lot of legal troubles - they have to be very careful with how they handle such a situation). Yes, it sucks that it's not your fault you have to go through the extra effort or move away to resolve the situation, but getting yourself out of the situation should be your number one priority, and doing it yourself is often the easiest solution.

  • "he will likely claim you just didn't like him and are making things up to get money out of him"... I never understood this. Isn't it illegal to lie under oath? Do people actually risk that? What if later evidence turns up that they lied (e.g. a neighbor says they heard the yelling)?
    – user541686
    Apr 14, 2017 at 7:10
  • @Mehrdad Yes, but a) perjury is already incredibly hard to prosecute anyways (e.g. can you prove the neighbor isn't lying) and b) some people are willing to take the chance if it looks like no evidence will ever be produced to counter their argument.
    – animuson
    Apr 14, 2017 at 14:52
  • I find that first paragraph both confusing and misleading. Battery is typically not a separately defined crime. Also assault using words alone is typically limited to threats of immediate injury. For example Missouri defines one form of Assault in the 4th degree (a misdemeanor) (3) The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; All other forms of assault require physical contact. Jan 30, 2018 at 19:01
  • 1
    @ConradFrix I'm not saying that assault excludes battery, just that assault is more broadly defined than battery. Most people equate assault to battery (even though battery only includes physical assault), although the actual definition of assault is much broader. They don't realize that assault can still occur without physical contact.
    – animuson
    Jan 30, 2018 at 19:05
  • I think you're adding confusion by being definitive without jurisdiction. For example Kansas defines both KS §21-5412 Assault and KS §21-5413 Battery which do exclude each other. Some states include both ideas like MO Assault. My state NY has Assault which is the same as KS Battery. but also has Menacing which is the same as KS Assault. I would stick to jurisdictional terms or to more general ideas like threats, harassment or physical violence. Saying people are confusing the terms isn't really fair. Jan 30, 2018 at 20:09

Are legal remedies available? ---> No. Saying these words does not constitute any tort that can claim remedies. However, if he says “Battery” or “Assault me with bodily harm” and you have done nothing, and so how, your landlord terminated the contract with you, it is possible for you to sue him for defamation and claim damages? Yet, in most cases, they won't work as you must prove financial loss due to this.

Am I entitiled to self-defense? For a proper self-defense in your case, you must reasonably believe that:

  1. You are facing an unjust threat from him; and
  2. You have used a level of force against him which is reasonable in that circumstances.

So, we can start looking into your case.

First, you have been posed a threat. By hitting you, you have reasonable grounds to state that you are under a threat (he may do actually bodily harm to you). So, the first element is constructed.

Second, hitting you is unjustified. Unless he can show that hitting you is to prevent you from suffering other harm (like there is a fire that you don't notice), then hitting you wouldn't be a justified act. You can use a reasonable force that is needed.

Third, that use of force is necessary. It varies as if you can leave or solve this problem without using force. If he often threatens you but won't do any harm to you, and in time he has not shown any signs that he will be hitting you, using force to “prevent” such act is not necessary. So, remember to think carefully before you do any defence, especially as you said you have some anger with him. He can use this to prove your defence is unnecessary.

Forth, the use of force must be reasonable. If he simply hit you and you punched him hard, causing him to pass out, it doesn't look like a proper defence, but rather trying to kill him. If you punch him a little but slightly, and he stopped his act, it would be a proper self-defence. You cannot kill him for hitting you with his hand, it is not reasonable.

Fifth, you must show you are defending yourself. If you rely on your anger with him and punched him without being threatened, it will not be a self-defence. You should wait till he is showing signs to hit you or actually hit you to defend yourself. Don't let your mind drive your act.

Mostly, after police arrived, they will leave if no crime is committed. Also, don't bring self-defence into a fight, it will bring you into trouble.

You can also possibly sue the landlord for negligence. He should have the duty to keep all tenants safe, and if he turned a blind eye on him, he is breaching his duty and so negligence can constitute. You can claim legal remedies for that.

I hope it helps you.

  • This seems to contradict this answer law.stackexchange.com/questions/8618/… threat of violence is breaking the law
    – schaz
    Apr 19, 2016 at 5:45
  • Threat of violence did break the law. Apr 19, 2016 at 5:46
  • Is threat of violence implied, for example if someone's up in your face yelling at you relentlessly would the cops come? From the link above, there's a video of a army drill Sargent who starts going military on a cop and the cop hit him, pinned him and arrested him, though technically he didn't hit the cop first.
    – schaz
    Apr 19, 2016 at 5:54
  • e.g. could you call a cop if someone was doing this to you? youtube.com/watch?v=71Lft6EQh-Y
    – schaz
    Apr 19, 2016 at 5:55

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