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Deals & Dealmakers

Governor serves up go-to-jail card for New Yorkʼs bad landlords

Landlords accused of harassing tenants out of their homes could face jail time under new legislation just signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo signed legislation preventing landlords from creating unsafe, disruptive or uninhabitable conditions in order to force tenants out of their homes.

The previous law only provided protections to tenants who could demonstrate physical injury, and failed to take into account the conditions caused by the landlord.

The legal standard was difficult to meet, not a single landlord was ever convicted of the crime of harassment of a rent regulated tenant in the state, according to the state Attorney General’s office.

Letitia James

This measure, a program bill advanced by Attorney General Letitia James, builds on the many new tenant protections signed into law by Governor Cuomo. 

Under existing law, criminal charges cannot be pursued unless prosecutors can prove that the offending landlord intended to push tenants out of their homes and that those residents incurred physical harm due to the property owner’s deliberate actions.

The new bill eliminates the need for attorneys to prove that a tenant has suffered physical injury and creates a class A misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to one year of jail time.

It also expands Class E felony offenses l to make it unlawful for landlords who make a concerted effort to push out two or more tenants in separate rent-regulated apartments by making units unlivable with a penalty of up to four years in state prison.

“For far too long, unscrupulous landlords have gotten away with subjecting rent-regulated tenants to dangerous and inhumane conditions in an attempt to force them out of their homes,” Attorney General James said.

“Today that changes. Tenants will no longer have to meet an unreasonably high bar to demonstrate that they are being harassed. Instead, we will ensure that landlords will face justice when they intentionally subject their tenants to unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions, such as exposing them to hazardous materials.”

Law A.6188/S.2605 changes a legal requirement that mandated tenants prove they’d been physically hurt by their landlords’ actions to prove harassment, the attorney general said.

It expands the definition of landlord harassment to include turning off the heat in the cold, exposing tenants to hazardous materials and conducting unsafe construction

“Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right, and we are proud to have enacted the most aggressive tenant protections in New York State history,” Governor Cuomo said.

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