Assemblyman Sheldon Silver today praised Governor David Paterson for signing legislation he sponsored that increases fines on landlords who harass tenants in rent-regulated housing in order to obtain a vacancy in their rental unit. The legislation (A.2002/Silver) was passed in the Assembly in February in a package of 10 bills that aim to strengthen rent laws and preserve the availability of quality affordable housing for low and moderate income families in New York City.
"This law will help put a stop to landlords trying to push tenants out of rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments through endless harassment," Silver said. "By sharply increasing penalties against landlords who violate the law, we are sending the message that harassing tenants is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I thank Governor Paterson for standing up for the more than two million tenants living in rent-regulated apartments in our city."
Under New York's current laws, landlords can raise rents when tenants vacate their units. This provision, known as vacancy decontrol, has given rise to unscrupulous landlords harassing tenants to give up their units. Assembly Speaker Silver sponsored the bill in response to complaints from constituents about landlords withholding necessary repairs, filing frivolous litigation for non-payment of rent and verbally harassing tenants.
Under the new law, landlords who are found to have harassed tenants will be fined $2,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for additional offenses. The law also increases penalties for landlords who violate orders issued by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to $1,000 for a first violation and $2,000 for subsequent violations.
Today, Silver called the law only a first step and renewed his call for adoption of legislation that passed the Assembly in February that would end vacancy decontrol and strengthen New York's rent laws. "Now more than ever, we need strong rent laws to preserve affordable housing. This legislation is a first step, but I strongly believe New York's 1 million rent-stabilized apartments will not be fully protected until we end vacancy decontrol and truly strengthen New York's rent laws."
"Landlord harassment is way too prevalent in New York City," said Steven Herrick, Executive Director of the Cooper Square Committee. "Every year, tenants come to our office desperate for help after their landlord has denied essential services or filed repeated, frivolous litigation in an effort to pressure them out of their rent-regulated apartment. This bill is a first step to protecting tenants, and I look forward to working with the Speaker to secure additional rent protections for rent-regulated units."