The Tenants Bill of Rights is signed into law. (l to r) Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, and Council Member Fernando Cabrera. Image credit: Office of Council Member Fernando Cabrera
Laws require tenants to be informed of landlord responsibilities and increase penalties for tenant harassment. On September 30, 2014 Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Local Law 45 and Local Law 47 of 2014 into law. The bills, referred to as the Tenants’ Bill Of Rights, were sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera and Council Member Margaret Chin respectively, and are directed to increase protection of New York City tenants.
Local Law 45, sponsored by Council Member Cabrera, requires the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to create an information guide for tenants and owners of buildings with multiple housing units. The guide must be distributed by owners to the tenants in their buildings and specify landlord responsibilities regarding heat, hot water, pest control, repairs, tenant organization, rent-regulated leases, rental assistance for the elderly or disabled, and housing discrimination. Violation of the law is punishable by a penalty of two hundred and fifty dollars for each multiple dwelling where the guide is not available. At the signing, Council Member Cabrera said “Today’s signing of the Tenants Bill of Rights provides another important tool in the arsenal of protection for all New York City tenants.”
Local Law 47, sponsored by Council Member Chin, increases the existing penalties for owners that harass tenants to no less than $5,000 and no more than $10,000. This is an increase from the current penalties of $1,000 to $5,000. The law also requires that HPD maintain a listing on its website of landlords found in violation of the law. “Harassment” of a tenant is currently defined by §27-2004(48) of the New York City Administrative Code as any action by an owner done to cause the lawful tenant of an apartment to give up the apartment or their rights to it. The Code specifies several actions by owners that qualify as “harassment”, including repeated interruption of essential services or frivolous lawsuits against the tenant. Council Member Chin issued a statement on the importance of the law, saying “Tenant harassment leads to the illegal deregulation of rent-regulated apartments, and it often targets our most vulnerable seniors. Preserving New York City’s affordable and senior housing stock means getting tougher than ever on landlords who engage in this behavior, and that’s exactly what we’ve done today.”
Mayor de Blasio praised the laws along with other legislation signed that day, saying “Today we take a decisive step forward in increasing accountability across this administration and commit to lifting up more New Yorkers.”
City Council: LL 45-2014, LL 47-2014 (Sep. 30, 2014.)
By: Michael Twomey (Michael is a CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2014