New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have announced a new task force to protect New Yorkers in rent-regulated apartments from harassment by landlords.
While city agencies typically handle building and housing code compliance by landlords, state officials prosecute criminal harassment charges. This task force will bring these agencies together to tackle the problem of tenant harassment. Tenant harassment complaints will now be investigated by both the city and state agencies, ensuring a more comprehensive approach to the issue.
The Current Problem
Once a tenant vacates a rent-regulated apartment, the landlord can increase rent by 20 percent or even convert the building into condominiums. Some landlords have cut the heat to apartments, refused to do basic repairs, and even intimidated tenants out of their apartments in order to get them to move and bring in a tenant paying higher rent. Tenant harassment complaints have doubled since 2011.
Under current law, landlord harassment is a housing code violation under New York City law. Landlord harassment includes:
- threatening tenant with force;
- bringing frivolous lawsuits against a tenant, such as an eviction action;
- disruptive and dangerous renovation projects; and
- removing the tenant’s possessions or the door of the apartment
If a tenant is harassed by a landlord, the tenant may file a harassment petition in housing court. Click here for a list of housing court locations.
A tenant may also request an apartment inspection by a city official by filling out a Tenant’s Request for Inspection. A clerk at housing court can tell the tenant how to serve papers on all parties. Information about service can also be found here.
It costs $45 to file the case, but the tenant may ask the housing court for a fee waiver if s/he cannot afford the filing fee.
A New York City tenant can also call 311 to report a landlord’s failure to perform repairs.
The State Division of Homes and Community Renewal’s Tenant Protection Unit also currently handles these complaints statewide. Since its creation in 2012, the TPU has recaptured more than 36,000 improperly deregulated apartments.
Tenants who believe they are being harassed by a landlord may also:
- Visit www.lawhelpny.org to find a legal services provider to help with this issue or to find know your rights materials on landlord harassment
- Contact Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795 Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm
- Chat with a LiveHelp operator to receive live assistance with housing problems. LiveHelp operators can provide information about your rights as a tenant and information about legal services agencies and hotlines that may be able to help.
Contact the Met Council on Housing Rights Hotline at 212.979.0611 Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30 to 8pm and Fridays 1-5pm
-Sophie Mancall-Bitel, Columbia Law School