The Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force, set to dive right into the investigation of landlords accused of harassing tenants, announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Mayor Bill de Blasio on February 19, is being backed and applauded by local pols.
The announcement was made at South Brooklyn Legal Service, on Court Street in downtown Brooklyn.
“Tenants in our city that are harassed and neglected by their landlords, left to live in substandard conditions and fear displacement, deserve full protection under the law,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Since I have taken office, I have spoken with advocates, elected officials and everyday Brooklynites about the need to criminally prosecute predatory landlords, who treat fines as the cost of doing business. Tenants need to know their rights.”
According to the attorney general’s office, the task force will confront the rise in complaints against landlords using a number of tactics to harass their tenants, including disruptive and dangerous renovation/construction projects in order to force tenants into vacating rent-regulated apartments.
Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, Councilmember Jumaane Williams called the effort “much needed.”
“My goal is to address our city’s affordable housing crisis, and believe the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force will be an important step to combat bad-actor landlords who do virtually anything to evict tenants and withdraw units from the protections that rent regulation provides,” said Williams. “In addition to this anti-harassment goal, it is my hope that the task force will work to provide solutions that address our affordable housing crisis.”
One factor that might help to minimize these crimes is a new tenant harassment law, which will increase the penalties for each incident of harassment – up to $10,000 per penalty, according to the mayor.
“For too long, unscrupulous landlords have found a way to navigate,” said de Blasio. “If they couldn’t get away with something one way, they’d get away with it another way. We found landlords would rack up all sorts of penalties and housing violations. The way to defeat that cynicism is to surround the bad landlords; to get the penalties increased, which is what we did, for example, with the tenant harassment law.”
“We are – in a good way – tightening the noose,” he continued. “We are making it tougher and tougher on the bad actors and this effort will ultimately reach thousands and thousands of tenants. Combined with all the other new pieces being put into play, it’s going to change the game.”