Bad landlords have long made a practice of threatening tenants over their immigration status, and with the problem only worsening post-election, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office has published a new guide to tenants rights specifically for immigrants. In a press release yesterday, Schneiderman wrote, "Every New York tenant has a basic legal right to live in peace in their home. Harassment of tenants based on immigration status is not only appalling – it’s unlawful. This guidance will help ensure that all tenants know their rights – and should serve as a reminder: my office will pursue to the fullest extent of the law any landlord who illegally harasses tenants."
The guide lays out the special rights afforded to rent-stabilized and rent-controlled tenants (which apply regardless of immigration status), and clarifies that if you have a lease, a landlord cannot kick you out before the end of the lease based on your immigration status. It also reiterates that it's illegal for landlords to threaten tenants with violence; lock them out of their homes; remove their possessions from their apartments; or cut off services such as electricity, heat, and hot water. Many of the points laid out in the guide are standard NYC tenants rights, but with the key clarification that these rights also apply to the city's immigrant tenants.
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If you're an immigrant facing harassment or eviction threats, there are a few things you can do. There's a complaint form you can fill out via the Attorney General's website (which doesn't require information on your immigration status), as well as a hotline to connect tenants with lawyers or legal aid in these cases. (The number is 1-800-566-7636, operators speak over 200 languages, and all calls are kept confidential and anonymous. The hours are Monday through Friday between 9 am and 8 pm.)
Schneiderman also suggests more standard means of reporting wayward landlords, such as filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (information on that here), or simply reporting your landlord via a call to 311. Whatever method you choose, the message here is clear: if an opportunistic landlord is trying to use our fearful political climate to harass you or someone you know, the state is offering several safe, effective methods for calling them out.
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