Council Introduces Legislation to Protect Tenants From Harassment

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** April 5, 2017
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- To address the prevailing issue of tenant harassment in New York, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, along with Council Members Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torres, Helen Rosenthal and Jumaane Williams have introduced a package of legislation that will make it easier for tenants to win and pursue harassment cases against abusive landlords.

Under current law, tenants in housing court are obligated to prove that an owner deliberately harassed them with the intent of causing said tenant to leave their dwelling. In addition to expanding the definition of what constitutes harassment, the proposed package would strengthen current protections by creating a rebuttable presumption for tenant harassment claims, meaning tenants would no longer be required to prove an owner’s intent in court.

The package of bills was first announced in Speaker Mark-Viverito’s State of the City, and will be heard in the Housing and Buildings Committee on April 19th, 2017 at 10am in the City Hall Chambers.

“No tenant should have to worry about being harassed by their landlord . The job of a landlord is to serve their tenants, not to intimidate them in an abuse of powers as the owner of the property,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which I proposed in my State of the City address, to give New York City tenants the right to collect fair damages and defend them from potential unscrupulous landlords.”

“For the countless New Yorkers who are regularly subjected to aggressive early morning knocks on the door, the only purpose of which is to intimidate vulnerable tenants, this package of bills ensures they will now be protected,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “No one should live in fear of being preyed upon in their own home, and the legislation we introduced today takes the critical steps necessary to protect tenants from harassment while also making it easier for them to take legal action against abusive landlords. I thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for prioritizing this issue, and look forward to working with her and my colleagues to pass this vital legislative package.”

“New York City is serious about ending tenant harassment. I’m proud my legislation fighting repeat violations by landlords is among the seven anti-harassment bills introduced at City Council today. Housing is a human right and New York’s tenants deserve protections from predatory landlords, especially chronic, repeat offenders,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“No one should feel uneasy or unwelcome in their own home. Combatting tenant harassment in New York City is absolutely fundamental in the battle to prevent displacement and homelessness. I am proud that two of my bills, along with legislation from Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Levine, Menchaca, Torres, and Williams, are part of a package that will make tenant harassment easier to prove and the penalties more severe, and finally offer protection to tenants living in private dwellings,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

The package includes the following bills:

  • Int 1530, introduced by Speaker Mark-Viverito creates a rebuttable presumption that where an owner commits one of a list of harassing acts or omissions, such act constitutes harassment.

  • Int 1548, introduced by Council Member Levine would amend the definition of harassment to include repeatedly contacting or visiting a tenant at unusual hours.

  • Int 1549, introduced by Council Member Menchaca would allow a landlord’s conduct to be considered as “repeated” even if the previous act was directed toward a different tenant.

  • Int 1550, introduced by Council Member Rosenthal would make tenant harassment laws applicable to private dwellings.

  • Int 1551, introduced by Council Member Torres would amend the harassment law to create a rebuttable presumption that including non-rent fees on a rent bill is intended to cause or did cause a tenant to leave their home.

  • Int 1556, introduced by Council Member Williams would increase the civil penalties for violations of the administrative code for tenant harassment.

  • Int 0347, introduced by Council Member Rosenthal would allow housing court to award statutory damages, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs for tenant harassment actions.

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