With Fear On The Rise In New York’s Immigrant Communities, A.G. Schneiderman Releases Tenants’ Rights Guidance For Immigrants Facing Landlord Harassment

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

April 12, 2017

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A.G. Warns: My Office Will Pursue Any Landlord Who Harasses Tenants On The Basis Of Immigration Status

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today released a new "Know Your Rights" guidance, providing immigrant tenants in New York State with legal guidance in the event that they face landlord harassment on the basis of immigration status.

With fear on the rise in immigrant communities, the Attorney General’s office has received a number of reports of tenant harassment; in particular, tenants and advocates have reported an increase of cases in which renters have been specifically targeted based on immigration status, including landlords threatening to call federal immigration officials and have the tenants deported in an attempt to illegally displace the tenants.

“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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “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 Attorney General’s new guidance is available here.

La nueva orientación del Fiscal General está disponible aquí.

The guidance covers a variety of legal protections that tenants have across the State of New York. Specifically, the guidance makes clear that landlords may not unlawfully evict or lock-out, harass, or deny essential services to tenants based on their immigration status. It also offers information on specific protections that exist in certain parts of the state, such as protections derived from New York's rent stabilization law, and specific laws for undocumented families, such as provisions of the New York City Human Rights Law that prohibit discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status. The guidance also reminds immigrant tenants that they have the right to organize and form tenant associations, and that their landlords may not retaliate against them for asserting their rights under housing and civil rights laws.

The Attorney General’s office partnered with the statewide New Americans Hotline – 1-800-566-7636 – to expand the hotline’s services. Tenants can call and be connected with qualified legal service providers that can represent them in housing court in the event that they are harassed or targeted for eviction. The toll-free hotline is operated by Catholic Charities Community Services and is available Monday through Friday, from 9am to 8pm, providing live assistance in over 200 languages. All calls are confidential and anonymous.

The Attorney General’s new guidance follows an uptick in overall harassment of rent-regulated tenants, which Attorney General Schneiderman has made a priority to address through his work on the Tenant Harassment Task Force, an inter-agency partnership between the Office of the Attorney General, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the New York City Department of Buildings, and New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Tenant Protection Unit. The Attorney General has indicted three New York City-based landlords since the launch of the Task Force.

For more information on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, please review Attorney General Schneiderman’s comprehensive Tenants’ Rights Guide, available in English here and Spanish here.

“Many New Yorkers have neighbors, friends, and even family members who are currently facing an incredibly difficult time,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). After holding multiple ‘Know Your Rights’ workshops in my district, I can speak first-hand to the prevalence of fear and the desire for helpful information stemming from our immigrant communities. Under no circumstance, should immigration status be used as a threat to force families out of their homes. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s action to provide comprehensive legal guidance for immigrant tenants.”

“I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for today’s initiative to protect tenants from exploitation by landlords seeking to take advantage of their undocumented status,” said U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Landlords should never, under any circumstance, have the ability to threaten or deprive a tenant of his or her legal rights based on their immigration status. I urge anyone who has been subjected to such abuse and vulnerabilities to contact the hotline to report their situation immediately.”

"Landlord harassment, while unfortunately common, is completely illegal -- and steps must be taken to inform tenants of their rights. 'Know Your Rights' guidance, which I have advocated to be placed in public areas, is a very effective way to increase awareness and prevent violation of these rights," said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "Attorney General Schneiderman's new 'Know Your Rights' guidance builds on the legislation the Council introduced last week to prevent tenant harassment and protect all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status." 

“Landlords must be punished when they harass tenants with threats about immigration status. I welcome the new “Immigrant Tenants Rights Guide” because it will educate tenants to protect themselves from illegal harassment and displacement. The New York City Council, which recently authorized legal representation for tenants in housing court, has also introduced a raft of local legislation to fight landlord harassment. I know we can count on State Attorney General Schneiderman and the State Office of New Americans in our work protecting immigrant tenants,” said Council Member Menchaca.

"For generations, immigrants and refugees have brought their talent, their energy, hope, and faith to our communities and neighborhoods. Catholic Charities applauds the Attorney General in this initiative to protect newcomers against discrimination and harassment in their homes and joins its New Americans hotline to the effort. We have been made better because immigrants have made New York their home; we are committed to making them safer today," said Mario Russell, Esq., Director, Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services. 

“Landlord harassment is a problem our immigrant clients face on a daily basis, partly because many are unaware of the available tenant protections afforded by law,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “These Know Your Rights campaigns provide crucial knowledge, and empower immigrant communities to push back and protect their households using all appropriate legal tools. We look forward to sharing this information with our clients, and laud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for his efforts serving New York’s most vulnerable.”

“I applaud the New York State Attorney General for pro-actively supporting immigrant tenants who may experience harassment from the landlords and/or agents,” said Harvey Epstein, Associate Director, Urban Justice Center. During these difficult times for immigrant New Yorkers, it is important for the Attorney General to educate tenants about their rights and where they can get much needed legal assistance.  We look forward to our continued work with his office to protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”