NYCLT Testimony on Harassment Rule

Our testimony on Rule 2-02 Harassment from July 19.  The last big hearing on Total Rent and Rent Adjustments is 2pm this Friday July 27 at 280 Broadway 3rd Floor, and they start deliberating on our testimony August 2 at 22 Reade.  Please show up!

Before June 2010, loft landlords and loft tenants were used to living outside the law. For landlords, this meant being able to get away with almost anything, from poor maintenance to replacing tenants and jacking rents at will. For tenants, this meant a continual state of fear.

The Loft Law grants new rights to tenants and aims to end the predatory practices of landlords. This is a difficult transition, and landlords do not adapt to change easily. Many react with outright hostility.

You’ve heard about some of the worst cases because they come up in the press, and you’ve heard some of these stories today. A landlord installs a biker gang in a tenant’s vacated space and the gang threatens and attacks the remaining neighbors. A landlord blocks the egress in order to obtain a vacate order, and then cements the tenant’s shower. Another landlord builds a wall that completely blocks tenants from their spaces. Denying elevator access, removing hot water, changing locks… the list goes on.

What you haven’t heard are the more subtle forms of harassment which plague tenants all over. One reason you don’t always hear these stories is that harassment works. One tenant I know of complained about maintenance problems, so the landlord said the tenant would have to move out. When she didn’t, the landlord attempted to jack the rent, said the tenant is using too much air conditioning, and started bombarding the tenant with collections notices. Needing good credit to conduct her business, the tenant moved out.

Another landlord tried to raise the rent; the tenant refused to pay because of leaks and continual unannounced parties on the roof. So the landlord told the tenant he would have to leave. He didn’t, and the landlord responded with collections notices. The tenant moved out.

Tenants in IMD buildings all over Brooklyn are being told they need to accept huge rent increases because their leases are up. The landlord gives two choices: either sign a new lease at the higher rate, or move out immediately.

Rule 2-02 on Harassment is vitally necessary. Unfortunately it is very difficult for tenants to seek protection under this rule. They must hire an attorney and endure a lengthy series of hearings, risking severe penalties if their application is found to be in bad faith. If successful, they don’t stand to gain anything but an end to their landlord’s bad behavior.

NYCLT was relieved to hear serious discussion of harassment during the Loft Board meetings on Rule 2-11.1 Fines this spring. This resulted in a helpful list of circumstances which should be considered harassment.

2-11.1(b)(2) contains the following language:

  • Harassment which “impacts on the tenant’s safety” includes but is not limited to “refusing to make repairs, repeated housing maintenance violations intended to render the unit uninhabitable, assault, battery, or threats of violence.”
  • Harassment which “impacts on the tenant’s quality of life” includes but is not limited to “creating excessive noise or odors, threatening eviction, filing false registration statement, refusal to consent to sublet, and tampering with mail.”

Aside from fraudulent collections actions and the current ongoing practice of haranguing tenants to sign narrative statement waivers under false pretenses, these definitions include most of the common forms of harassment we are seeing today.

We request that the Loft Board include these definitions in Rule 2-02.

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