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Source: US State of New York

New Law Protects Tenants from Landlord Harassment

AG James’ Program Bill Signed Into Law by Governor Cuomo

A.6188/S.2605 Protects Tenants from Common Forms of
Harassment that Were Previously Not Covered by Law

NEW YORK — Today, Attorney General Letitia James’ program bill that expands protections for tenants was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The law (A.6188/S.2605) will protect rent-regulated tenants from landlord harassment by preventing landlords from creating unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions in order to force tenants out of their homes. Previously, the law only provided protections to tenants who could demonstrate physical injury and failed to take into account the conditions caused by the landlord.

“For far too long, unscrupulous landlords have gotten away with subjecting rent-regulated tenants to dangerous and inhumane conditions in an attempt to force them out of their homes,” Attorney General James said. “Today that changes. Tenants will no longer have to meet an unreasonably high bar to demonstrate that they are being harassed. Instead, we will ensure that landlords will face justice when they intentionally subject their tenants to unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions, such as exposing them to hazardous materials, shutting off heat and hot water, or using construction to make buildings deliberately uninhabitable. I thank the bill’s sponsors, Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Lentol, legislative leaders, and Governor Cuomo for ensuring that our most vulnerable tenants will be protected.”

“Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right, and we are proud to have enacted the most aggressive tenant protections in New York State history,” Governor Cuomo added. “I thank Attorney General James for her advocacy on this measure, which holds bad actors accountable and further strengthens existing tenant protections. With this signature, we’re taking one step closer towards a safer, fairer, and more affordable New York for all.”

The new law will protect rent-regulated tenants when a landlord attempts to force them out by making their accommodations uninhabitable or purposefully creating or maintaining a condition that risks the safety, health, and comfort of the tenant. The law increases punishment when a landlord seeks to force out two or more rent-regulated tenants by creating these unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions. A landlord engaging in this conduct against one tenant will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for harassing a rent-regulated tenant; where the conduct impacts two or more tenants, a landlord will be guilty of a Class E felony; and a landlord guilty of multiple convictions for misdemeanor conduct under these new provisions within five years will be guilty of a Class E felony.

A program bill is legislation introduced by a legislator on behalf of the Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, or by state departments and agencies.

“Over the years I have heard far too many horror stories from my constituents about the harassment they have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous landlords trying to drive them out of their homes,” Senator Liz Krueger said, “Until now, it has been nearly impossible for criminal charges to be filed against even the worst offenders. As of today, the law will be updated to protect tenants and give them a fighting chance, and to safeguard our dwindling stock of affordable housing. I commend Attorney General James for her leadership on this issue, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill so that rent-regulated New Yorkers can live free of the fear of harassment from their landlords.”

“The harassment of tenants in order to force them out so the landlord can raise the rent has been a rampant and unconscionable problem,” Assemblymember Joe Lentol said. “This bill takes a stance against landlords who puts profit over people. Many tenants are forced out under the guise of necessary repairs, but this bill will go a long way to protect tenants from such harassment and help keep individuals and families in their home.”

“Our building has been organizing against our landlord, Seth Miller, for over three years. Despite him losing managerial control of the building for over 18 months due to dangerous living conditions, including leaving tenants without bathrooms for months and poisoning children with lead, he has returned and is still harassing tenants and denying basic services,” Caridad Maldonado at Tenant Association President 919 Prospect Avenue said. “People like Seth Miller do not respond to fines or housing court. We are grateful to now have access to criminal penalties for landlords when they harass tenants and tenant champions, like Attorney General James, to make sure that there are meaningful consequences for their harassment.”

“St. Nicks Alliance thanks Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo for advancing this legislation to protect rent-regulated tenants from harassment,” Rolando Guzman, Deputy Director for Community Preservation at St. Nicks Alliance said. “As North Brooklyn continues to be the battleground for displacement of low- to moderate-income New Yorkers, we are aware that harassment has taken different shapes throughout the years beyond physical harm. We now see landlords using aggressive and unsafe construction with the intentions to displace long term tenants, we call this ‘construction as harassment.’ This new legislation is sending a clear message to unscrupulous landlords in New York, do not harass your tenants or you will go to jail. We also thank Attorney General James for her leadership protecting tenants across the state.”

“Tenant harassment is all too commonplace among predatory, speculative landlords in New York,” Jim Markowich of Tenants Taking Control said. “I know firsthand how dangerous and harmful this type of harassment is and because landlords have historically faced small penalties and no criminal enforcement, there is little incentive to change these destructive practices. I thank Attorney General James for her leadership in advancing this new law that will be a game-changer for protecting tenants and holding unscrupulous landlords accountable.”

MIL OSI USA News