City and State Join Forces to Combat Landlords Who Harass Rent Stabilized Tenants
It’s about time. The powers-that-be are finally beginning to take notice and address the very serious matter of the city’s worst landlords. These men represent an undercurrent of greed, and are allegedly responsible for some heinous harassment of tenants.
And now the policy against them…
Yesterday afternoon, the powerful triumvirate of New York politics – Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio – launched a joint enforcement task force called the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force. Its function is to “investigate and bring enforcement actions – including criminal charges – against landlords who harass tenants” and is another recent measure meant to crack down on the most egregious offenders. The group will also confront the sudden rise in complaints about specific landlord tactics such as renovating apartment to force tenants into vacating rent-regulated apartments.
We like what Schneiderman had to say on the matter – “Most landlords are law-abiding and responsible, but as the real-estate market in New York City heats up we have seen an influx of bad actors looking to turn a fast buck. A thriving real estate market is no excuse for tenant harassment. Make no mistake about this: My office will pursue landlords who knowingly or intentionally threaten the health and safety of their tenants to the full extent of the law, including bringing criminal charges against them. If you treat your law-abiding tenants like criminals, we will not hesitate to make you one.”
From the press release:
Tenant harassment complaints in Housing Court have nearly doubled since 2011. The task force will confront the rise in complaints that landlords are using a variety of tactics, including disruptive and dangerous renovation and construction projects, to force tenants into vacating rent-regulated apartments.
Previously, when owners have neglected their buildings and allowed them to fall into extreme disrepair, the NYC Department of Buildings and Department of Housing Preservation and Development have used their enforcement powers to ensure compliance with housing and building codes, while cases involving harassment and rent regulation have been handled by New York State’s Division of Homes & Community Renewal Tenant Protection Unit (TPU), which was created by Governor Cuomo in 2012 to investigate landlord patterns and practices of harassment and illegal profiteering. The new task force will conduct joint cellar-to-roof inspections, coordinate enforcement actions, and when necessary speed the prosecution of predatory landlords who purposefully distress properties as a form of harassment in order to displace tenants and deregulate rent-stabilized apartments.
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Ben Shaoul, Photo: NY Post
Some of these predatory tactics should be familiar to those following the local news:
- Landlords working without proper permits.
- Construction in violation of stop-work orders.
- Landlords who openly ignore requirements for tenant protection plans in order to contain the spread of lead and/or asbestos which may be exposed during renovation. (Looking at you, SMA Equities).
- The removal of essential systems, such as boilers and venting systems, in order make life unbearable for existing residents.
The nascent task force has already begun implementing unannounced building inspections at locations where landlords and management companies are suspected of using construction as a means to harass tenants. Member agencies will then pursue evidence of illegal acts, and lodge enforcement actions.