It’s a situation few ever want to find themselves in – your landlord is making your life miserable. Threats, intimidation, ignoring requests for repairs or service…these all disrupt your life and they all constitute harassment on the part of the landlord.
Sadly, this type of behavior is too common in NYC, especially in rent-controlled and rent stabilized units. Landlords who do this are hoping to frustrate the tenants so that they vacate the unit. This allows the landlord to raise the rent on the new tenant, something they can’t do while the current tenant is living there.
You don’t want to move and you have a right to feel safe and comfortable in your own home. What are your options?
The New York Tenant Protection Act
New York does have tenant protections in place for these types of situations. The Tenant Protection Act, also referred to as Local Law 7, prohibits landlords from participating in harassment activities. In fact, harassment is considered a violation of the NYC Housing Code. Passed in 2008 in response to growing complaints about landlord harassment, the Tenant Protection Act specifically prohibits landlords from using force or making threats, which are intended to disturb tenants or pressure them into giving up their unit. This includes repeated or prolonged interruption of essential services or repairs.
Thanks to the Act, tenants now have legal recourse against harassing landlords. A harassed tenant can file a claim for harassment in housing court or they can use the Act as a defense against a housing case brought by the landlord.
What constitutes harassment?
Harassment is broadly defined as any action that a landlord undertakes to force a tenant out of the apartment or give up his or her rights as a tenant. Specific examples include:
- Purposely denying or delaying necessary repairs or services.
- Verbal threats, yelling, or name-calling.
- Physical altercations, intimidation or violence.
- Bringing cases against you in court over and over without reason.
- Entering the apartment repeatedly without informing you in advance.
- Changing the locks without providing you with a new key.
Actions for Tenants who feel that they have been harassed
- Contact the police. One thing to do if you feel harassed by your landlord is to contact the police. This will start a formal record of harassment, which can be used as evidence if a case ever ends up in court.
- Keep a record of incidents. Keep a log of all harassment. Include dates, the type of harassment action, and where it occurred. Keep any letters, emails, or notices from the landlord. Keep a record of your complaints to the landlord about services that have been stopped or repairs that have been ignored. Keep a record of any complaints you have made to housing authorities or tenant advocacy groups. Take pictures or videos of harassing actions or behaviors. Collect witness testimony, if possible. The more details you can provide, the better.
- Take the landlord to housing court. If you feel that you’ve been harassed, you can file a claim in Housing Court. Each borough has its own housing court. To file a claim, you’ll need to get the right forms from the court clerk. You’ll need to include supporting documentation. Once the forms have been completed and submitted to the court, a judge will set a court date and a date for an inspection of the property, if necessary.
- Contact a tenant rights attorney. If you are not sure if you’re being harassed, are unsure of your rights or what actions to take, or don’t want to handle the court filing process yourself, you should consult a tenant law attorney. An attorney who is experienced in landlord-tenant law can evaluate your specific situation, advise you of your options, and represent you in court.
What happens if the Landlord is guilty?
If the landlord is found guilty of harassment he or she will be ordered to cease all harassment actions and can be fined as much as $5,000 per harassment incident. These fines are paid to the city, not the tenant. If the harassing behavior continues, the landlord may face additional fines and penalties.
Fight back against Landlord harassment
If you feel threatened or harassed by your landlord and don’t know what to do, contact Brasch Legal for advice or representation. Our founding partner, Justin C. Brasch has over 20 years of experience in landlord/tenant law and, in fact, was a victim of landlord harassment himself. We understand the frustration and the fears that come with landlord harassment and can guide you through the appropriate actions to protect your rights. Our office is highly experienced with Housing Court procedure, NYC Rent Regulations, HPD issues, and DHCR rules and regulations.
Call us at 212-267-2500 to discuss your landlord situation.