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New York State AG proposal targets bad landlords

According to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the bar that tenants in rent-regulated units must clear to gain legal relief against the worst New York City landlords is inordinately high.

In specifically addressing a state statutory enactment entitled Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant and other legislation, Schneiderman recently stated that such laws "are outdated, ineffective and totally inadequate to keep tenants safe from unscrupulous landlords."

The criminal harassment statute (penal code) clearly galls Schneiderman, City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others who say that tenants have long fought an unfair battle to assert housing-related rights. As noted in a media report from earlier this week, that law currently mandates that a tenant seeking to bring a legal action against a landlord must prove both an actual physical injury and that the landlord's action was taken with an intent to force the tenant out of a regulated dwelling. Civil penalties for harassment do not require the tenant to show physical injury but the civil penalties have proven to be an inadequate deterrent.

Schneiderman says that a new law he is proposing to supplant the existing legislation would go far toward protecting tenants.

And that goal, he asserts, is "a top priority" of his office.

Newly offered language seeks to delete the proof requirement related to physical injury, with the aforementioned media focus noting that it would also "open the door to prosecutions arising out of more commonplace and insidious tactics."

Those include things like failure to attend to dangerous problems, introducing adverse conditions that render apartments uninhabitable, not providing heat and hot water as required, and so forth.

One city council member hopes that the proposal will be formally enacted as law and have a domino effect, to wit: Tougher legislation will deter more egregious landlord conduct and help tenants to feel progressively more empowered in securing proven legal counsel who can forcefully advocate on their behalf against unlawful actions.

The legislation was introduced on April 12.