Commercial landlords face new fines as City Council passes anti-harassment bill

Landlords now face up to $50,000 in fines

Council member Vanessa Gibson (Credit: New York City Council)
Council member Vanessa Gibson (Credit: New York City Council)

The New York City Council on Wednesday approved a bill that broadens the definition of commercial tenant harassment and hikes the fines against landlords to as much as $50,000.

The council voted 39-5 for the measure, which increases the penalties for harassing tenants of commercial buildings to a range of $10,000 to $50,000. The fines currently run from $1,000 to $10,000.

The bill, sponsored by Bronx Democrat Vanessa Gibson, also expands the definition of commercial tenant harassment, listing 13 actions that qualify, including using force, making threats and interfering with a tenant’s business with unnecessary construction. The measure also allows courts to order the Department of Buildings to deny construction permits to landlords found to have harassed their tenants.

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The real estate industry had opposed an earlier version of this legislation that required landlords to acquire a certification of no harassment before obtaining permits for renovation or demolition work. The Committee on Small Business approved an amended version of the bill earlier this week. The Real Estate Board of New York reportedly approves of the latest iteration of the bill.

“It’s going to punish those people who are guilty of harassment, as they should be,” Reggie Thomas, REBNY’s senior vice president of government affairs, told the Wall Street Journal.

The city already requires some residential landlords to obtain a certificate of no harassment to get certain building permits. A pilot program launched last year applies to more than 1,000 buildings.