Commercial Tenant Harassment
As of September 2016, the “Non-Residential Tenant Harassment” law now protects New York City commercial tenants from harassment. Although the new law was intended to protect small business owners, it actually covers all commercial tenants. In order to establish harassment by a commercial landlord, you must prove: 1) the commercial landlord, or someone acting on the landlord’s behalf, is doing something that is intended to make you to vacate the commercial property or surrender your rights under the commercial lease; and 2) that the landlord engaged in one of the following wrongful acts:
- Using force against you or threatening to use force against you or your clients/customers;
- Causing repeated interruptions or discontinuances of your essential services;
- Starting court proceedings against you when you are not in default under your lease;
- Removing your personal property from the commercial property;
- Removing the entrance door, causing the lock to the entrance door to not work, or changing the lock without giving you the key;
- Preventing you from entering your commercial space;
- Interfering with your business by doing unnecessary construction or repairs; or
- Engaging in any other repeated conduct that substantially interferes with the operation of your business.
If the court finds that your commercial landlord has harassed you, it shall impose a mandatory civil penalty of between $1,000 and $10,000. The court may also issue a restraining order against the commercial landlord to prevent further harassment. The court may also make the landlord pay your attorney’s fees if you are successful in court.
You should note that the new law does not affect your commercial landlord’s ability to lawfully terminate your commercial lease, refuse to renew or extend your lease, or to reenter and repossess your commercial property. Also, you still have an obligation to pay your rent, and any money damages you are awarded for harassment can be reduced by the amount of delinquent rent or other sums you owe your landlord.
Legal Editor: Darryl M. Vernon, October 2016
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.