Gov. Cuomo Signs New Law Making Tenant Harassment Easier to Prove

The governor recently signed a bill package from Attorney General Letitia James that she says will make it more difficult for owners to force tenants out of their rent-regulated homes. Previously, the law provided protections only to those tenants who could demonstrate physical injury and failed to take into account the conditions caused by the landlord.

The new law will protect rent-regulated tenants when an owner tries to force them out by making their accommodations uninhabitable or purposefully creating or maintaining a condition that risks the safety, health, and comfort of the tenant. 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. The law increases punishment when an owner seeks to force out two or more rent-regulated tenants by creating these unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions. An owner engaging in this conduct against one tenant will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for harassing a rent-regulated tenant; where the conduct impacts two or more tenants, an owner will be guilty of a Class E felony; and an owner guilty of multiple convictions for misdemeanor conduct under these new provisions within five years will be guilty of a Class E felony.