A.6188/S.2605 Broadens the Definition of Existing Class E Felony Offense for Harassing a Rent Regulated Tenant and Establishes a Class A Misdemeanor Offense
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (A.6188/S.2605) protecting rent regulated tenants from landlord harassment by 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. This measure, a program bill advanced by Attorney General Letitia James, builds on the many new tenant protections signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
"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. "I thank Attorney General James for her advocacy on this measure, which holds bad actors accountable and further strengthens existing tenant protections. With this signature, we're taking one step closer towards a safer, fairer, and more affordable New York for all."
"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, shutting off heat and hot water, or using construction to make buildings deliberately uninhabitable. I thank the bill's sponsors Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Lentol, legislative leaders, and Governor Cuomo for ensuring that our most vulnerable tenants will be protected."
The new Class A misdemeanor for harassing a rent regulated tenant is committed when a landlord attempts to force out a tenant by making their accommodations uninhabitable or purposefully creates or maintains a condition that risks the safety, health and comfort of the tenant. This measure also broadens the definition of the existing class E felony offense to include conduct by a landlord that seeks to force out two or more rent regulated tenants by making their accommodations uninhabitable or purposefully creates or maintains a condition that risks the safety, health and comfort of the tenant. Finally, multiple convictions for misdemeanor conduct under these new provisions within five years will permit prosecutors to charge the repeat offender with a class E felony.
This legislation fulfills a key component of the Governor's Justice Agenda, as well as builds on the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 - enacting the most aggressive tenant protections in state history.
Senator Liz Krueger said, "Over the years I have heard far too many horror stories from my constituents about the harassment they have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous landlords trying to drive them out of their homes. Until now, it has been nearly impossible for criminal charges to be filed against even the worst offenders. As of today, the law will be updated to protect tenants and give them a fighting chance, and to safeguard our dwindling stock of affordable housing. I commend Attorney General James for her leadership on this issue, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill so that rent-regulated New Yorkers can live free of the fear of harassment from their landlords."
Assemblymember Joe Lentol said, "The harassment of tenants in order to force them out so the landlord can raise the rent has been a rampant and unconscionable problem. This bill takes a stance against landlords who puts profit over people. Many tenants are forced out under the guise of necessary repairs, but this bill will go a long way to protect tenants from such harassment and help keep individuals and families in their home."