As a tenant in the state of New York you have the right to defend yourself against unlawful actions. Some of the most common and illegal acts undertaken in landlord tenant disputes comes in the form of landlord retaliation.
Most states offer strict defense against such actions, and New York is no different. Landlords who own property within the state are forbidden from taking damaging retaliatory actions against their tenants. Doing so leaves them vulnerable to a number of costly legal consequences.
What is Landlord Retaliation?
If a tenant defends their legal rights against unfair treatment from their landlord, and the landlord responds with actions undertaken in a vengeful manner, that is considered retaliation.
The state of New York defends a tenant’s rights to:
- Complain to a landlord or government agency if their legal needs are not being met
- Exercise their legal rights
- Participate in a tenant organization.
For example, if a tenant has noticed that their fire escape is not up to code, or that harmful mold is present in their unit, they have the legal right to complain to the landlord or a government agency.
Also, there are certain utilities that a tenant is entitled to under New York law. These include electricity, heat and hot water, telephone services, and elevator services. If these needs are not met, a tenant is within their legal right to demand timely repairs. If a landlord takes action against them in response to such complaints, that is considered retaliation.
Retaliatory actions can include a large increase in rent, termination of a month-to-month rental agreement, refusing to renew a lease, filing an eviction lawsuit, or self-help eviction actions such as changing the locks, cutting utilities, or removing the tenant’s property.
What Can a Tenant Do in Response to Retaliation?
If you are a tenant who has been victimized by landlord retaliation, it is best to contact a real estate attorney immediately, as they will have the knowledge needed to guide you through the process of documentation.
New York law states that in the event of retaliation, “a landlord shall be subject to a civil action for damages and other appropriate relief, including injunctive and other equitable remedies, as may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.” In other words, tenants may sue for damages, which in the state of New York can have a maximum total of up to three times the actual value.
It is tricky to prove that retaliation has occurred. Documentation is helpful in making a case against your landlord. The state of New York views any negative act taken within six months of a tenant action to be retaliation, so properly documenting and dating correspondence is vital to proving your case.
Experienced real estate law firms like Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. are a tenant’s best line of defense against retaliation in New York. Without proper documentation, a long and expensive legal battle could prove more detrimental to the tenant than the offending actions.