Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled new legislation today aimed at holding landlords criminally accountable for tenant harassment.
The new legislation would eliminate the need to prove physical injury to a tenant, and a landlord’s specific intent to cause it, in order to secure a criminal conviction against an offending landlord.
Here's a breakdown of what the legislation does:
- Adds a new class A misdemeanor that would apply to landlords and their agents who, with the intent to cause a rent regulated tenant to vacate their home, engage in a “course of conduct” that is reasonably likely to, and does in fact, interfere with and disturb the comfort, repose, peace and quiet of such tenant in the use of their home;
- Expands the existing class E felony Penal Law statute to make it unlawful for landlords or their agents to attempt to force tenants in two or more rent-regulated units to move out by engaging in a “systematic ongoing course of conduct” or “repeatedly committing acts over a period of time” that “is or are reasonably likely to interfere with and disturb, and does or do interfere with and disturb, the comfort, repose, peace and quiet” of such tenants in the use of their homes; and
- Makes it a class E felony for a landlord to commit the new class A misdemeanor offense after he or she has been convicted of that crime within the preceding five years.
These provisions make it easier for prosecutors to curb common tactics used by landlords to force out tenants, including long and disruptive construction projects, deprivation of hot water and heat for extended periods of time. The new class A misdemeanor imposes a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. The class E felony carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison.