As most of you are aware, a large part of our practice is representing Landlords and Tenants involved with commercial property. It is a common complaint of commercial tenants that their Landlords are “harassing” them in an effort to force them out of their space because their rent is “under market.” It is certainly possible that unscrupulous Landlords could use less than savory tactics to try to force a commercial tenant to leave. Landlords are often motivated to use questionable methods to cause commercial tenants to vacate so that they can re-rent the space at a higher rent. The New York City Council has enacted a “nonresidential tenant harassment” law designed to protect commercial tenants. “Commercial Tenant” within the meaning of the law is defined as a person or entity lawfully occupying a covered property pursuant to a lease or other rental agreement.
The covered property is any building that this is used for business, commercial, professional manufacturing services or activities. Prohibited conduct by the Landlord and/or agents is as follows:
- Using force, or making threats of force against commercial tenants;
- Causing repeated interruptions of services such as gas, electric, heat, hot water;
- Causing interruption of essential services for an extensive period;
- Causing an interruption of an essential service which shall substantially interfere with the commercial tenant’s business;
- Repeatedly commencing frivolous court proceedings against the commercial tenant;
- Removing the commercial tenant’s property;
- Removing the entrance door or somehow interfering with the functionality of the entrance door of the commercial property;
- Preventing access or entrance to the commercial property by the tenant or tenant’s guests;
- Commencing unnecessary construction or repairs to interfere with the commercial tenant and its business;
- Engaging in any other acts to interfere with the operation of the tenant’s business.
The tenant’s remedy in the event of such conduct by an unscrupulous Landlord is to bring a lawsuit for a claim of commercial Landlord harassment. The lawsuit could entitle the tenant to a restraining order against further acts of harassment and judgment for damages and attorneys’ fees.
Of course, whether a Landlord is committing harassment or the tenant is truly a victim of harassment is a matter of interpretation and point of view. I am happy to discuss this new statute and your specific circumstances to determine whether there is a violation of this new law, “nonresidential harassment.”
Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.