Tenants are taking steps to ensure their rights are not violated and that their voices are heard. In fact, a recent case was finally settled in court at which West Village tenants claimed their landlord was attempting to force them into paying higher rents in rent regulated buildings. Furthermore, a package of bills has recently been passed with the sole intention of protecting the rights of tenants and ensuring landlords cannot engage in unscrupulous practices to increase their rates or to otherwise make their living situations unbearable.
West Village Tenants Score Victory Against Landlord
A group of West Village tenants have scored a victory against their landlord after suing over claims that the landlord was illegally benefitting from the J-51 tax abatement. According to the claims, the landlord illegally deregulated their rent-stabilized rental building at 28 Bedford Street. A group of residents then filed a lawsuit against Rudd Realty claiming that the developers were receiving benefits from the J-51 tax abatement program, but were failing to ensure all apartments in the building were rent regulated as required.
At the time when the suit was filed, only three of the building’s 32 apartments were rent regulated. The other tenants claimed that the landlord refused to allow them to sign a new lease unless they accepted a rent increase of $150 per month.
Rudd Realty has since agreed to refund the extra rent and the interest to the tenants. The landlord has also filed an affidavit in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court stating the same. The affidavit also ensures none of the existing tenants in the building will be evicted. The amount owned to the tenants is to be determined by the courts.
Tenants to Get New Protections from Landlords
The City Council has approved a package of 18 bills that will provide tenants in NYC with greater protections. The package of bills, entitled The Stand for Tenant Safety, is meant to provide tenants with greater protection from landlord harassment as well as unsafe conditions.
First introduced in April, all 18 of the bills offer the following protections:
- Establishment of the office of a Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings with the intent of monitoring various protection plans for tenants and responding to complaints from tenants about construction issues.
- Impose penalties on construction work carried out without permits, as some landlords have started construction on the pretext that they are making repairs. They then make the buildings uninhabitable in an effort to drive out those tenants who are in rent-stabilized units.
- Classification of calls from landlords at odd hours as intimidation.
Pushed forward by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito along with council members Carlos Menchaca, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Ritchie Torees and Jumaane Williams, the legislation represents a sweeping reform to the Department of Buildings. Just a month earlier, a bill was also passed to guarantee legal representation to low-income tenants in housing court.