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

Bills Favoring Tenants, Landlords Spark Debate Over Rights of Each

Two
competing bills pertaining to tenant and landowner harassment are dividing the
City Council and sparking debate about how to balance the rights of the two
groups.

Under
legislation introduced by council members Daniel Garodnick and Melissa
Mark-Viverito, tenants would receive new legal protection against harassment by
landowners, including physical and verbal threats, and the deliberate withholding
of services.*

Officials
from the Bloomberg administration testified in support of Mr. Garodnick’s bill,
saying it would give tenants a new ability to seek restraining orders that
would stop landlords from harassing them. Currently, city officials said,
landlord violations such as withholding services have to be processed
separately, sending tenants back and forth to housing court. The new law would
create stiffer penalties.

While
Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday described the bill as "a historic step
forward for tenants and for the preservation of affordable housing,"
landlords are against it, saying it would lead to frivolous lawsuits, and clog
the courts.

"The
proposed legislation is extraordinarily broad and, at the same time, extremely
vague," the vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York, Marolyn
Davenport, said yesterday, testifying at a public hearing. "This vague
language will result in an avalanche of frivolous suits."

Two critics
of the legislation, council members Leroy Comrie and Thomas White Jr., are
sponsoring a separate bill that would allow landowners to sue tenants for
harassment, and require the city government to review tenants’ claims of
harassment before they went to court.

Mr. Comrie
said at yesterday’s hearing that he feared "long protracted cases"
would bankrupt small homeowners.

Mr.
Garodnick said his bill, which would give landowners the ability to block
harassment proceedings if tenants had filed two frivolous suits in the past,
already took the issue into account.

"We
were careful to try to be fair to landlords," Mr. Garodnick said in a
phone interview.

Mr.
Garodnick’s bill has more than 30 co-sponsors, giving it a strong chance to
pass.

* Make the Road New York is a founding
member of the coalition that drafted the bill