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Proposed bill takes aim at New York landlords who try to force out tenants www.nydailynews.com

Proposed bill takes aim at New York landlords who try to force out tenants

by: Erin Durkin

A proposed state law would make it a crime for landlords to harass tenants to get them out of their apartments, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.

The proposed bill would make it a misdemeanor for a landlord to engage in a course of conduct intended to drive a tenant from their home.

Landlords could face felony charges for going after tenants in two or more rent regulated apartments.

“Some bad landlords see rent regulated tenants as just a potential gold mine, and more than a few are looking to make a fast buck by harassing tenants out of their homes,” Schneiderman said at an East Harlem news conference.

“It has become clear that our state’s existing criminal laws are simply inadequate to address the reality of tenant harassment.”

Current law says landlords can only be charged with a crime if a tenant is physically injured, and prosecutors can prove the landlord intended to cause the injury.

Not a single landlord has been convicted under the law in the nearly two decades it has been on the books.

 “This is an absurdly high bar,” Schneiderman said.

The new legislation would allow charges against landlords who launch dust-spewing construction projects in hopes of forcing residents out, or cut off heat and hot water.

As the Daily News first reported Tuesday, the attorney general is also publishing a new “know your rights” guide for immigrant tenants after complaints landlords have threatened tenants who are in the country illegally.

Maria, a Ridgewood tenant who wouldn’t give her last name, said she’s battling her landlord after he tried to scare her into moving out.

“He told me if I didn’t leave the apartment, immigration would come and take away all the undocumented people who live in the apartment,” she said in Spanish.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the Council is also working on a package of legislation to make tenant harassment harder to prove.

“These initiatives will help ensure that the people who are most in need do not fall prey to unscrupulous landlords,” she said.

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