En Español Know Your Rights
Source: TortDeform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

New NYC Tenant Harassment Law

According to the New York Times, a Brooklyn woman
told fellow participants at a rally that "her landlord has refused to make
basic repairs, such as fixing the shower. When she complained about problems
with bed bugs, her landlord told her to put the insects in a tortilla and eat
them, she said."

Well, yesterday Mayor
Bloomberg signed into law a new bill**
that would protect people like this woman, a Spanish-speaking renter, from
tenant harassment. It would make harassment a violation of the housing code,
and defines harassment as "the use of force or threats, repeated interruptions
of essential services, the frequent filing of baseless court actions and other
tactics that ‘substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose,
peace or quiet’ of any unit’s lawful occupant." From Bloomberg’s press
statement:

Introductory
Number 627-A addresses a variety of unacceptable and improper practices by
landlords whose actions, either willingly or inadvertently, cause lawful
tenants to vacate their homes. This practice, commonly referred to as tenant
harassment, is often aimed at residents in multiple-unit dwellings in an effort
to compel them to vacate their homes, so that owners may then make improvements
to the apartments and re-rent them for much higher rents than previous tenants
paid.

City Council Speaker
Christine Quinn sponsored the bill, and to protests that this law will bring in
too many more lawsuits, she responds: "If the law is that significant that the
court is worried it’ll be overwhelmed by it, the answer isn’t to legally ignore
the existence of that problem."

Touché. I mean, with the
current state of our economy and the current housing crunch, it is particularly
important to address injustices that leave more and more people without stable
or reliable housing, for no reason other than another person’s greed. This
isn’t about the "bad" or "nuisance" tenants, this is about landlords trying to
line their pockets by getting rid of the old renters, hiking up the rent, and
getting wealthier renters to move in.

Hey – I’ve got an idea,
how about we reduce the burden on the courts by doing something to crack down
on those lawsuits that landlords file against tenants to intimidate, harass, and
pressure them out of their apartments without just cause? Oh, wait, I guess
that’s Quinn’s and Bloomberg’s idea, too.

It’s a shame that the
quest for profits has overshadowed a sense of human decency and social
responsibility, but it’s not a shame that can’t be corrected. This new law is
progress.

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