CTRC Fact Sheet Index

TenantNet note: These Fact Sheets were published by CTRC in the mid-1990's. Some information will be out-of-date. As far as we know, there have been no updates to these fact sheets. While much of the information may still be valid, the reader should exercise caution.

CTRC Fact Sheets -- reproduced with permission.
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The Community Training Resource Center (CTRC) is a city-wide not-
for-profit organization that champions the rights of modest and
low-income tenants and promotes the preservation, improvement,
and expansion of affordable housing. CTRC provides training and
technical assistance for neighborhood housing groups, community
based organizations, legislative staffs and social service
providers.

CTRC produces fact sheets on tenants' rights, develops and
publishes research reports, and provides a written guide to New
York City government processes. CTRC advocates on budget policies
that affect housing and related services in low-income
neighborhoods. CTRC has led the campaign for the improvement and
expansion of the city's Housing Maintenance Code inspection and
enforcement services.
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CTRC Fact Sheet #008

FIGHTING LANDLORD DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT

Discrimination

There are city, state and federal fair housing laws that prohibit
discrimination and promote equal housing opportunity. The New
York City Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination
throughout the five boroughs and is enforced by the NYC
Commission on Human Rights.

The law as amended in 1991, prohibits housing discrimination
because of "actual or perceived race, color, national origin,
sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender, marital status,
alienage, citizenship status, age, lawful occupation, or because
children maybe, are, or will be in residence."

The widespread practice emphatically forbidden under the law is
the refusal to rent, sell, or approve the sale or rental of a
housing accommodation because the prospective tenant or purchaser
happens to belong to one of the "protected classes" listed above.
Additionally, other unlawful housing practices and behavior
include offering services in exchange for sexual favors, use of
discriminatory slurs and epithets, racial steering, blockbusting
and discriminatory mortgage or home improvement lending. The law
also requires that landlords and co-ops make "reasonable
accommodation" to the needs of the disabled, such as: building
ramps, making kitchen cabinets and closets accessible, and
widening doorways and passageways.

Complaints alleging discriminatory practices may be filed with
the Human Rights Commission within one year of their occurrence.
Complainants should first discuss their situation with a
representative of the Commission, who will determine whether
grounds for the allegations support the drafting of a verified
complaint (call 212-306-7500). The Law Enforcement Bureau will
then investigate and upon determining that good evidence, or
probable cause (PC) exists, will prosecute the complaint.

The bureau will make an attempt to resolve the complaint through
the processes of conciliation and/or mediation; decisions and
agreements reached through these procedures are binding and
enforceable.

Charges of discrimination that are substantiated can result in
the landlord being fined up to $100,000 ( and up to $250,000 if
the case goes to NY Supreme Court). The landlord may also be
required to participate in an "Affirmative Relief" program which
is designed to help prevent future discrimination. Affirmative
relief may include apartment set-asides, education and training,
and equal housing opportunity language on advertising and
promotional material.

The Commission, its Law Enforcement Bureau, and the Courts, offer
a significant means of redress for people who have been
discriminated against.


Harassment

Various statutes define harassment as a continuous course of
conduct by a landlord, or his agents, designed to cause a tenant
to unwillingly vacate his apartment or waive rights granted him
by the Rent Stabilization Law or the Rent Control Law. Tenants
victimized by harassment may file a complaint with the
Enforcement Bureau of the New York State Division of Housing and
Community Renewal (DHCR). This bureau is staffed by housing
attorneys specifically trained in this area of the rent laws.

The Housing Court, where tenants can often successfully raise
issues involving lack of services or repairs, will usually not
hear a complaint of harassment.

Owners may try to force regulated tenants out because they seek
much higher rents after a vacancy renovation, or they are
planning to convert the building to co-op ownership, and want a
vacant apartment that will be deregulated or can be sold. Because
of "Luxury Decontrol" a vacancy might also result in a
deregulated apartment.

Often landlords commence a program of harassment in retaliation
against tenants who have asserted their rights by complaining
about a lack of required services or repairs in the building.

No landlord, or any party acting on his behalf, may "interfere
with the tenant's privacy, comfort, or quiet enjoyment of the
apartment". The DHCR Enforcement Bureau considers the following
acts to constitute clear instances of harassment:

o    physical abuse

o    verbal abuse

o    arson

o    denial of services (when it is purposeful and continuous)

o    multiple instances of unwarranted litigation.

After the tenant files a harassment complaint (DHCR Form RA-60H)
it is reviewed and assigned a docket number which is then
forwarded to the tenant. Cases which clearly do not constitute
harassment are returned, sometimes with suggestions for a more
appropriate course of action. Accepted complaints are then
assigned to an Enforcement Bureau attorney or hearing officer who
will schedule an initial informal conference. The hearing officer
can, however, immediately order injunctive relief if the
situation warrants it.

It is always preferable for a tenant association, or a group of
tenants if they are involved, to file a harassment complaint
rather than an individual tenant; such a complaint will have a
stronger impact on both the hearing officer and the landlord. It
may also deter the landlord from targeting any one tenant for
retaliation.

Success in the hearing depends on establishing evidence of a
pattern of harassment by the landlord which makes it clear that
he intends to force the tenant or tenants to move out or give up
rights. Documentation is important in establishing such evidence
which might include records of statements made by the landlord as
well as correspondence and other forms of communication. Cross-
examination of the landlord is allowed. Tenants, if possible,
should have an attorney, and those who are income eligible should
seek assistance from a Legal Services or Legal Aid office.

If a complete pattern of harassment and evidence of its effect on
the tenants can be presented, the hearing officer will warn the
landlord of further penalties which can be imposed by the agency.
The hearing officer may do this in writing to the landlord after
the conference, with a copy to the tenants.

A formal hearing must take place if an official finding of
harassment is to be made. Landlords found guilty of harassment
are subject to fines of up to $1,000 for each violation against a
rent controlled tenant and up to $2,500 for each violation
against a rent stabilized tenant. In addition, rent increases are
not allowable after the finding, and cannot be restored until
there is evidence that the harassment has ceased.

If the bureau is reluctant to hold this hearing, tenants who feel
that it is justified, should insist that their case remain open
and monitored, with the possibility of a future, formal hearing.

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These article are Copyright 1995 and 1996 by Community Training Resource
Center (CTRC) and reproduced by TenantNet. They may be freely
redistributed in their entirety provided they are reproduced exactly
as in the originals, including this copyright notice, the opening and
closing informational banners and any references to either CTRC
or TenantNet must be included.

These article are provided as is without any express or implied
warranty. While any information in these article is believed to be
correct at the time of writing, these articles are for educational
purposes only and do not purport to provide legal advice. If
you require legal advice, you should consult with a legal
practitioner licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

Community Training Resource Center                (212)964-7200
47 Ann Street
New York, NY 10038

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