City Council Passes Bill Protecting Immigrant Tenants from Harassment
The City Council recently approved a bill that bars owners from asking immigrant tenants for proof of citizenship. Int. No. 1678, introduced by Councilmember Peter Koo of District 20, amends the definition of “harassment” under the Housing Maintenance Code to include discriminatory threats and requests for proof of citizenship. Amending this definition allows tenants to bring harassment claims for such actions in housing court.
While harassment claims are already heard through the Human Rights Commission as violations under the Human Rights Law, expanding the harassment definition in the Housing Maintenance Code to include discriminatory threats or request proof of citizenship would also allow tenants to bring harassment claims directly against owners through housing court. Earlier this year, the city’s Human Rights Commission pursued charges against a Ridgewood owner for allegedly harassing immigrant tenants in his building, including threatening to report them to federal immigration officials, after they filed a discrimination complaint against him. The NYC Human Rights Law explicitly prohibits retaliation for filing discrimination claims with the commission.
The bill will update the definition of “harassment” to include:
· Threatening any tenants based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, caregiver status, sexual orientation, or alienage or citizenship status;
· Refusing to accept government-issued ID; and
· Requesting citizenship documents when valid ID has already been provided.
Owners convicted of harassment are subject to civil penalties between $1,000 and $10,000. The piece of legislation now awaits Mayor de Blasio’s signature.