Landlords accused of calling cops on legal tenant meetings

Attorney General Letitia James, without naming names, warns property owners

New York /
Apr.April 29, 2022 09:30 AM
New York Attorney General Letitia James (Getty Images, iStock)

New York Attorney General Letitia James (Getty Images, iStock)

New York Attorney General Letitia James says landlords are violating tenants’ rights to meet and organize.

James issued a memo to law enforcement agencies across the state on Monday, amNY reported. In the memo, James cited “concerning tactics” used by unnamed landlords to thwart tenant activities.

“We have seen reports of landlords calling the police on tenants for gathering and organizing in their own buildings — actions that are well within the parameters of the law,” James wrote.

Just a week earlier, the attorney general claimed that some landlords who received rent aid were violating the terms of that program by issuing renewal notices with rent increases. In that case, too, she did not name any property owners.

This time, James chided landlords who allegedly use law enforcement to “bully and threaten” tenants, saying her office will work with local law enforcement to ensure renters are able to exercise their legal rights across the state.

Landlords are not allowed to interfere with tenants’ rights to form, join or participate in organizations. Landlords also cannot disperse a meeting of tenants and organizers unless it violates narrow prohibitions outlined in law.

Enforcing and ensuring tenants’ rights has long been seen as politically beneficial to New York elected officials. Last fall, Gov. Kathy Hochul ushered in a set of protections for New York tenants, but has not publicized her moves to help landlords, such as letting the eviction moratorium expire and failing to endorse good cause eviction.

One of the enacted bills ensured that stabilized leases cannot be voided or used as collateral if a tenant files for bankruptcy. The governor championed the bill as a step towards ensuring housing for those in difficult situations, but is still not seen as an ally by tenant advocates. James, however, has been regularly promoting tenant causes and her actions against landlords.

Meanwhile, the push for a good cause eviction law continues. Last month, more than a dozen labor unions sent a letter to Albany calling for support of the legislation, which would give tenants a defense against eviction in housing court if a landlord raises the rent by more than 3 percent or 1.5 times the regional inflation rate, whichever is higher.

James backed good cause leading up to her attempt to run for governor against Hochul, which she quickly abandoned, reportedly because of weak fundraising. (James cited a desire to continue her work as attorney general.)

Good cause eviction has gained some momentum at the local level, although also has suffered some setbacks. Last month, Rochester rejected a good cause measure that would have stymied rent hikes of 5 percent or more. Hudson blocked a similar bill.

[amNY] — Holden Walter-Warner





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