Thursday, August 18

New York City Council Raises Housing Fines for Negligent Landlords

The Big Apple recently passed legislation that created harsher punishments for “bad apple” landlords.

Landlord harassment has been an ongoing issue in New York City, and tenants who choose to fight back are often deterred be lengthy legal processes and road blocks. However, the City Council has taken another step towards prosecuting egregious landlords. New legislation was recently passed that doubles the maximum fine for landlords who are found to have harassed their tenants. Additionally, a public list of offenders will be posted on the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development website, for all to view.

Under the new law, the maximum fines for landlords who are found guilty of harassing tenants have increased from $5000 per unit to a cool $10,000. For repeat offenders, the minimum fine of $1,000 has increased to $2,000. The names of the guilty landlords, in addition to the property’s address where the offense took place, will also be available online, in hopes of informing prospective tenants. Some even go as far as to consider this publicly shaming.

The issue of landlord harassment is not neighborhood- or income-specific, and also affects tenants who choose to rent a luxury apartment. The problem is city-wide.

“With a large number of rent stabilized and rent controlled apartments, I believe the harassment issues in New York City are specific to that area. We find that exceeding tenant expectations by being responsive and delivering outstanding service helps us avoid many of the conflicts faced by other property owners and management companies,” says Svetlana Mosyurova, Marketing Director, Post Brothers Apartments in Philadelphia.

The City Council realizes that not all of the city’s landlords are bad apples; in fact, they feel that many strive to do the right thing. However, finding quality, affordable housing in the City That Never Sleeps is a challenging feat in and of itself. Add a harassing or negligent landlord to the equation and this only makes matters even more difficult.

Landlord bullying has been an ongoing issue for the city, and the bill’s supporters hope the it will be effective in combating harassment from landlords, with the hefty fines acting as a deterrent. However, the bill is not meant to fine landlords the maximum amount for every violation, but rather gives judges the opportunity to use their discretion. Repeater offenders are more likely to be hit with harsher penalties than first-timers.

However, often the trouble is not penalizing guilty landlords, it’s finding them guilty. Slumlords and bully landlords are often able to evade housing court, and proving harassment or bullying can be difficult for tenants. Legal proceedings can be lengthy. While this new legislation will not expedite the process, it will certainly protect tenants from harassment, and from being forced out of their apartments.

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