MIDTOWN — The city and state are rolling out a new task force to take on landlords who are trying to harass tenants into giving up their apartments. The task force will be empowered to sue landlords or even pursue criminal charges against them.
The Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force will investigate complaints that landlords are using tactics like disruptive and dangerous renovations and construction projects to force tenants to move out of rent-stabilized apartments, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
“More and more landlords are trying unscrupulously to take advantage of the market,” de Blasio said. “What they’re doing is they’re forcing people illegally out and leaving people in a tough situation.”
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The new task force will conduct cellar-to-roof inspections, coordinate enforcement actions against landlords and oversee the prosecution of predatory landlords, the mayor said.
“It marks another step toward all levels of government coming to grips with this problem and taking the reins and addressing it,” de Blasio said.
In the past, New York State’s Division of Homes & Community Renewal Tenant Protection Unit has handled harassment and rent regulation cases, while the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have handled compliance and building code issues.
The new task force will coordinate with other agencies to expedite investigations, officials said.
“This is the all-levers approach to preventing predatory landlords from throwing tenants out of their home,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
De Blasio said he hopes the idea of a new watchdog discourages landlords from abusing their power.
“If someone thinks they will get caught, they are more likely to not violate the law,” the mayor said.
“Our message today is, ‘You will get caught. There will be severe penalties. You will wish you had not violated the law.’”