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Task Force Against Tenants Harassment

In London, you complain about the weather. In New York, you gripe about your rent and–your landlords. And now the city is going to help you do something about it. Mayor de Blasio just announced a new task force to support tenants who want to press criminal charges against their landlords. Adélie Pontay decided to find out exactly what this means for New Yorkers.

Low and moderate income New Yorkers are more likely to be harassed by their landlords because they’re more likely to live in rent-stabilized apartments. Ellen Davidson of the Legal Aid Society says that landlords have an incentive to push tenants out of those apartments.

Ellen Davidson: “When a landlord can empty out a rent stabilized apartment there is very little oversight into what the rents are next. So the landlord can illegally deregulate the unit and then charge an astronomical amount.”

She says that may be why complaints are rising. They’ve more than doubled since 2011.

Ellen Davidson: “They’re certainly been stories all over the city about landlords doing things like coming into tenants homes and smashing their kitchens and bathrooms and telling them to leave.”

Repairs to a bathroom and kitchen forced Marcia McLean to live in a two-bedroom apartment with 4 other adult family members. The family of five had been living in a three bedroom apartment in Crown Heights for over 20 years. The landlord finally agreed to upgrade their kitchen and bathroom so they moved to a smaller apartment in their building. And for months, the repairs weren’t finished.

Marcia McLean: “I had to take them to court to find out when I was gonna be able to move into my apartment.”

Her rent is currently under $1000 but similar apartments in her building go for up to $4000. She says her landlord has used other techniques to force tenants out her building.

MarciaMclean: “For one year they did not collect rent for the tenants when they came back right after the holiday season and asked the tenants for the money, many of the tenants had probably spend it out during the holidays time.”

After that, they either took the tenants to court or offered to buy them out. 400,000 apartments have already been deregulated, but there are still 1 million apartments in New York whose tenants the Task Force will have to look out for.

Adélie Pontay, Columbia Radio News.


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