Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed legislation prohibiting New York City landlords from engaging in “commercial tenant harassment.” The new law, titled “Non-Residential Tenant Harassment” and codified as Chapter 9 to Title 22 of the New York City Administrative Code, became effective on Sept. 26, 2016. Until the new law is interpreted by the courts, key issues such as appropriate forum, limitations on remedies and potential waiver of statutory protections remain unclear.
The law was primarily intended to protect small business owners from harassment by their landlords. For example, the initial draft of the statute defined “non-residential tenant” as “includ[ing], but not limited to, a tenant that is a small business.” Furthermore, hearings before the City Council’s Committee on Small Business and press conferences held by City Council members touted the law as protecting small business owners. The law as enacted, however, adopted a broader definition of “commercial tenant” to include all tenants—not just small businesses.