En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Ban on Harassment of Tenants OKd

Tenants
cheered Mayor Bloomberg yesterday for enacting a law making it easier to bring
harassment suits against abusive landlords.**

The mayor
also pleased health and nutrition activists by signing into law another bill
that creates 1,000 new licenses for street vendors who will be limited to
selling fresh fruits and vegetables in communities where they’re not readily
available.

The
"green carts" will be located in 34 specified police precincts.

But it was
the tenant protection bill that got the most attention Thursday at City Hall.

Tenants and
housing advocates are not usually big fans of Bloomberg – who regularly rubs
elbows with big-shot developers and landlords. But cheer him they did Thursday
when the mayor made a brief appearance at a rally on the steps of City Hall
being held by some 200 tenants and their allies, including Council Speaker
Christine Quinn.

Shortly
afterward, Bloomberg signed the anti-harassment legislation into law at a
packed Blue Room bill-signing ceremony. The measure is intended to crack down
on landlords who use threats and other means of harassment to try to drive
their rent-regulated tenants out so the units can be rented at higher market
rates.

"While
we believe the vast majority of landlords throughout the city are responsible
and do not engage in tenant harassment, we can not turn our backs on bad actors
who participate in such behavior," Bloomberg said.

The
anti-harassment bill was passed by the Council Feb. 27 after months of haggling
with the mayor’s administration.

Despite
some modifications, the bill was still strongly opposed by the Rent
Stabilization Association, which represents landlords and managers of 1 million
apartments.

The new
law, which is effective immediately, gives tenants legal standing – called
"a cause of action" – to directly sue landlords in Housing Court for
acts of harassment aimed at forcing tenants out of rent-regulated apartments so
the units can be rented at higher market rates.

Violations
will be punishable by fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for each unit where harassment
is found to have occurred.

To address
concerns by court officials that they could be swamped with landlord harassment
suits, the Council made an eleventh-hour modification requiring the suits to be
brought by order to show cause – which will enable some prescreening by the
Housing Court.

** Make the Road New York has worked in coalition with the Association for
Neighborhood and Housing Development to spearhead the passage of this
legislation.