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Chemical sprays: A new landlord low to oust stabilized tenants?

There doesn't seem to be any length to which some New York landlords won't go to try to get the most out of their properties. Tenant turnover, especially in rent stabilized situations, is one way it can happen. Anyone who has lived in the city can probably share a story apparent landlord harassment. For the sake of protecting the home, renters should seek the help of an experienced attorney to advocate on behalf of their rights.

The history of shady landlord actions is long. Strategies on record include subtle-but-still-illegal strong-arm tactics like pressing tenants to accept low-ball buyouts. Indeed, the law provides a long list of actions that fit the definition of harassment. All can be summed up this way, however. It's illegal for an owner or his or her agent to engage in conduct that disturbs the "privacy, comfort, peace, repose or quiet enjoyment" of a tenant's housing.

That would seem to create a wide-open field for tenants to make legal claims for protection. The difficulty often is that the legal process is complicated. The law may favor tenants, but if the right steps aren't followed, if one form is filled out wrong or improperly registered with the housing authority, the case can be in jeopardy.

Then, there may be difficulty proving the claim. Landlords don't usually practice harassment openly.

This may be something residents of stabilized rental units in one Upper West Side building may be facing. According to news reports, residents suspect building employees are trying to drive out longtime tenants protected by rent controls by spraying toxic pesticides into select units. One woman says she caught someone spraying under her door at 2 in the morning. Efforts are underway to organize tenants behind a possible lawsuit.

The landlord denies the claims, but his dispute history with tenants is one that in 1984 earned him a label as one of the most heartless landlords in the city. We will be among those watching to see how the case turns out.

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