A series of bills that seek to expand upon what it means for a landlord to harass a tenant have been introduced by seven City Council members, reports Gothamist. The bills aim to give tenants more leverage when it comes to battling landlords who are attempting to harass them out of their homes.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, along with council members Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, Ritchie Torres, Helen Rosenthal and Jumaane Williams proposed bills that would classify acts like visits and phone calls from landlords to tenants at unusual hours as intimidation and "non-rent fees" on a rent bill in attempts to force tenants out as harassment. One of the proposed bills also would create a "rebuttable presumption," eliminating the need for tenants to prove that landlord harassment was intentional before taking the case to court.
The bills would make it clear that it is perfectly legal for landlords to offer buyouts to tenants, so long as it is not done in a manner that is aggressive or intimidating.
To enforce the proposed legislation, one of the bill focuses on raising civil penalties for property owners that violate the rules and would allow housing court to award attorney’s fees, statutory damages, compensatory and punitive damages in tenant harassment cases.