Rent-stabilized tenants who believe they are being harassed have the right to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, also known as DHCR, the state agency which oversees rent-regulated apartments. (The state Attorney General also provides assistance to tenants with harassment problems in some instances.)
If, after an administrative hearing, DHCR finds that harassment has taken place, it may levy steep fines against the responsible entity or individual. Landlords – in this case, the co-op board of directors or the management company – found guilty of harassment are subject of fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. Under certain circumstances, harassment of a rent-regulated tenant may constitute a class E felony. Furthermore, DHCR will permit no rent increases once there has been a finding of harassment until there is a finding that the harassment has ended.
Tenants may also bring a claim in housing court and the court may issue restraining orders against the landlord if violations have been found.
TO BUILDING SERVICES
The rent- stabilization law protects tenants in rent-stabilized apartments from service reductions by landlords, in this case the co-op board or management company. A co-op board of directors may be legally prevented from changing, reducing, or eliminating a building service they consider no longer needed or too costly to maintain. Service reductions which will impact rent-stabilized tenants must undergo a filing and review process with DHCR’s Office of Rent Administration, where the board may or may not be granted permission to eliminate or reduce the service.
The costs of major capital improvements (MCIs) paid for out of the reserve fund of a housing co-op, unless reimbursed by a special assessment on unit owners or shareholders, and those paid from grants from governmental entities, cannot be passed on to tenants living in rent-stabilized units. (The most common MCIs are new roofs, elevators, boilers, or windows in every apartment.)
TO ORGANIZE AND PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS
While their status as non-shareholders deprives rent-stabilized tenants of the right to participate in shareholder meetings or otherwise play a role in the operation or management of the cooperative, they still have a legal right to organize. State law allows them to form, join, and participate in tenants’ organizations for the purpose of protecting their rights, including organizing rent strikes.
In addition, tenants’ groups have the right to meet in any common area in their building, such as lobbies and halls, in a peaceful manner and as long as these meetings do not interfere with the right of others to enter, leave, or move about the building. Landlords are forbidden by law from interfering with tenant-organizing activities or harassing a tenant from participating in them.