Tenants could get more muscle in their fight against landlords who try to chase them from rent-stabilized units so the owners can charge more money.
Tenants can’t directly sue landlords for harassment under current law; they must file complaints through various state or city agencies, which critics say tend to rule for landlords.
A new tenant anti-harassment act aims to change that, allowing tenants to sue in Housing Court.
"The vast majority of landlords are good business people," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral aspirant who began her career as a housing advocate. "But there are bad apples out there who are responding to gentrification by deliberately and willingly engaging in campaigns of tenant harassment to get tenants out of their homes."
Once out, rent on vacant units can be boosted way beyond normal stabilization rates.
The measure carries fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for offending landlords and gives judges greater latitude for corrective actions.
Frank Ricci of the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, said the measure "will encourage a lot of frivolous actions" and force legitimate tenant cases to take a backseat.
A mayoral spokesman said the administration will work "with the Council on this important issue."