Mayor Signs Package of Tenant Protection Bills
On Aug. 30, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed 18 pieces of legislation focusing on tenant harassment. The new laws make it easier for tenants to take abusive owners to court, and increase penalties and enforcement against dangerous and illegal construction.
The bills include Intro. 347-B, which allows Housing Court judges to award tenants damages; Intro. 1133 requires the Department of Buildings to withhold permits when property owners owe more than $25,000 in unpaid violations; Intro. 1530 partially shifts the harassment burden of proof to the landlord; Intro. 1548 expands the definition of “harassment” to include repeated contact at unusual hours; Intro. 1549 allows tenants to sue landlords for harassment based on repeated disruption of essential services and landlord-initiated lawsuits against other tenants for frivolous reason in the same building; Intro. 1556 increases minimum civil penalties for tenant harassment. A second package of bills—Intro. 918-A, 924-A, 926-A, 930-A, 931-B, 936-A, 938-A, 939-A, 940-A, 944-A, 1523-A, and 960-A—targets construction as tenant harassment.
Besides these bills, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation earlier last month that provides all low-income tenants facing eviction with free legal representation in Housing Court. The program, which is overseen by the Civil Justice Coordinator at the Human Resources Administration, will serve 400,000 tenants when it is fully implemented in five years. To ensure that tenants know their rights and have access to these protections, the city’s Public Engagement Unit and the Human Resources Administration will add these anti-harassment tools to their outreach.