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On February 28, 2008, the New York City Council unanimously passed Intro 627-a, a bill that gives tenants the right to sue landlords for harassment. Harassment is defined by the bill as any act or omission, such as repeated interruption or withholding of services, by a landlord that causes or is intended to force a legal tenant to vacate an apartment.
The penalty for landlords found guilty of harassment would be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 for each unit where the violation occurred and possibly no rent increase for the harassed units. The most important deterrent to harassment would be a Housing Court restraining order against further violations of the law, a measure not available under current city or state regulations.
This is an important victory for tenants in rent-regulated apartments who often find themselves under pressure from their landlords to vacate their apartments so that the landlord can move the apartment to a market-rate rental.