New Law Protects NYC Tenants from Slumlords and Unsafe Conditions

Brooklyn building. Photo by Kevin H. via Flickr.

There’s a new law that protects tenants from landlord harassment. Meet law A.6188/S.2605.

On December 3, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Attorney general Letitia James’ program bill that protects rent-regulated tenants from landlord harassment. The law prevents landlords “from creating unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions in order to force tenants out of their homes,” the law states.

As per the new law, a landlord who engages in behavior such as creating unsafe conditions as an attempt to take out rent-regulated tenants from apartments can now be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If landlords do it for more than one tenant, then they could be charged with a Class A felony.

“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.”

According to the law, a landlord is “guilty of harassment of a rent-regulated tenant in the second degree when, with the intent to induce a rent-regulated tenant to vacate a housing accommodation, such owner intentionally engages in a course of conduct that:

  1. Impairs the habitability of a housing accommodation;
  2. Creates or maintains a condition which endangers the safety or health of the dwelling’s tenant;
  3. Is reasonably likely to interfere with or disturb, and does interfere with or disturb, the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of such rent-regulated tenant in his or her use and occupancy of such housing accommodation including, but not limited to, the interruption or discontinuance of essential services.”

“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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”

According to James, “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.”

“Today that changes. Tenants will no longer have to meet an unreasonably high bar to demonstrate that they are being harassed,” she added in a statement. “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.”

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Zainab Iqbal

Zainab is a staff reporter at Bklyner who sometimes writes poetry in her free time || zainab@bklyner.com

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