Landlords who harass tenants could face up to four years in prison
On Wednesday, the state Senate passed the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 which will amend the state’s Penal Law to lower the strangely high legal bar for taxpayers to face prosecution for tactics like turning off heat and warm water, exposing residents to hazardous materials, and creating rent-stabilized buildings deliberately uninhabitable. Lawmakers in the state Assembly already passed the bill, and it heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for a signature.
The passage in assembly and the senate of the legislation is a major step in tenant protections for New Yorkers, said one particular member.
State lawmakers have passed legislation that makes it easier for prosecutors to pursue landlords who frighten tenants that were rent-regulated by lowering the legal standard to prove harassment.
“As the law stands now, it is practically impossible for criminal charges to be filed against even the worst offenders,” said state Senator Liz Krueger, who represents the Upper East Side and has been a sponsor of this legislation. “It is about time this legislation was updated to safeguard tenants and give them a fighting chanceto protect our dwindling stock of affordable housing.”
The bill removes the requirement for lawyers to show that a tenant has suffered physical harm. In addition, it produces a new class A misdemeanor–that the very serious misdemeanor classification–which would apply to landlords, who with intention to induce a tenant from their unit, behave in a way that”interrupts the habitability” of their home or would be reasonably likely to”interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet” of a renter in their home. The crime carries a sentence of up to a year of jail time.
Criminal charges cannot be pursued unless prosecutors can prove that the landlord intended to induce tenants and those citizens lacked bodily harm due to the land owner actions. The legal standard is indeed tough to fulfill, not one landlord has ever been convicted of this offense of harassment of a rent controlled tenant at the nation, according to analysis by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services of data from the state Attorney General’s office.
Class E felony offenses are also expanded under the bill to make it unlawful for landlords who make a concerted effort by making units independently — with a penalty of up to 3 years in state prison, to push out two or more tenants in different rent-regulated apartments. The legislation makes it a category E felony for a landlord to perpetrate the type A misdemeanor following the owner is already convicted of the amount of crime.
“In an effort to get market-value rents, landlords have gone into great lengths to force rent-regulated tenants out of their homes,” said Assembly member Joespeh Lentol, that represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg and sponsored the action. “Their wrongdoings have escaped that the reach of present law. This law will make sure that landlords are punished if they intentionally frighten tenants and undermine rental units in an effort to force the tenants to leave.”