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AG James to state law enforcement agencies: Don’t let landlords use you to violate tenant rights

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Attorney General Letitia James speaks to HTC members.
Photo by Dean Moses

New York Attorney General Letitia James emphasized Monday that law enforcement should not be used at the behest of landlords to violate tenant rights.

Issuing a memo to law enforcement agencies all across the state, James said she looked to provide guidance regarding police response to complaints of renters. James is concerned that landlords or superintendents could use emergency services as a tool to break up legal tenant procedures such as meetings or to organize against property owners. 

“As New Yorkers grapple with unprecedented rent increases and an increasingly difficult rental market, we are seeing some landlords use concerning tactics,” Attorney General James said. “We have seen reports of landlords calling the police on tenants for gathering and organizing in their own buildings — actions that are well within the parameters of the law. Every tenant should feel comfortable exercising their right to organize without fear of legal retaliation. Landlords cannot use our law enforcement officers as tools to bully and threaten tenants, and my office will work to ensure that local sheriffs and law enforcement departments understand the rights of tenants across the state.”

Stating that she does not want to see law enforcement unintentionally violate tenant rights, the memo states that if officers are called to disrupt a meeting the responding officers must have a good understanding of Real Property Law § 230 and the protections it provides to tenants and their representatives. 

The memo also writes that landlords are prohibited from interfering with the right of a tenant to form, join, or participate in the lawful activities and law enforcement, when encountering a meeting of tenants and organizers in a building, may not disperse the meeting unless it violates narrow prohibitions outlined in the law.

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