Landlords lose challenge against pandemic renter protections

Federal judge says laws at issue do not violate owners’ constitutional rights

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit from a group of New York landlords that sought to challenge pandemic protections for tenants. (iStock)
A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit from a group of New York landlords that sought to challenge pandemic protections for tenants. (iStock)

A group of New York landlords are considering an appeal after a federal judge rejected their bid to challenge tenant protections put in place by the City Council.

The landlords argued that the measures, passed by the Council in May as part of a Covid-relief effort, violated their constitutional rights, according to Crain’s.

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But Judge Ronnie Abrams said they hadn’t made their case.

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“Plaintiffs have expressed some legitimate concerns, and the court recognizes the toll the pandemic has taken on them, in addition to their tenants, all New Yorkers and millions more around the world,” the judge wrote. However, “the court cannot conclude that these three challenged laws violate any of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”

Stephen Younger, the lawyer representing the landlords, said his clients were weighing an appeal.

“The decision upholding these laws will only inflict more pain on property owners,” he said, “because they shift rent losses onto their backs at a time when they’re unable to afford these sorts of losses.”

The three laws the landlords took issue with are known as the residential harassment law, the commercial harassment law and the guaranty law, which respectively block landlords from threatening tenants who are affected by the pandemic, and relieves personal guarantors in certain leases from enforcement of those guarantees.

“This is a major victory for small-business owners who need protection from landlords during this unprecedented time,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. [Crain’s] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan