The bill removes the requirement for lawyers to show that harm has been suffered by a tenant. The crime carries a sentence of up to a year of jail time.
The law’s passage in assembly and the senate is a significant step in tenant protections for New Yorkers, said one Assembly member.
“In a bid to get market-value rents, landlords have gone to great lengths to force rent-regulated tenants out of their houses,” said Assembly member Joespeh Lentol, who symbolizes Greenpoint and Williamsburg and also sponsored the act. “Their wrongdoings have escaped the scope of present law. This legislation will make sure that landlords are penalized if they purposefully harass tenants and undermine rental units in a bid to force the tenants to leave”
On Wednesday, the state Senate passed the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 which will amend the nation’s Penal Law to lower the inexplicably high legal bar for landlords to confront prosecution for tactics like turning off heating and hot water, exposing residents to hazardous substances, and making 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 touch.
Class E felony offenses are expanded under the bill to make it unlawful for landlords who make a concerted effort by making units unlivable — with a penalty of up to four years in state prison, to push two or more tenants. The law also makes it a class E felony for a landlord to perpetrate the class A misdemeanor after the owner has been convicted of that level of crime.
Under existing legislation, criminal charges can’t be pursued unless prosecutors can show that the offending landlord meant to push tenants and that those citizens lacked bodily harm because of the deliberate actions of the property owner. The legal standard is indeed tough to meet, not a single landlord has been convicted of this offense of harassment of a rent controlled tenant in the nation, based on investigation by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services of data from the state Attorney General’s office.
Could face up to four years in prison under the new laws
State lawmakers have passed laws which makes it much easier for prosecutors to pursue by decreasing the legal standard to prove harassment landlords who harass tenants that were rent-regulated.
“It is about time that this legislation was updated to safeguard tenants and give them a fighting chance, and to safeguard our dwindling stock of affordable housing.”