Landlord harassment has become one of the city's most noteworthy scourges, and the road to fighting back is often long and mired with bureaucratic roadblocks. Today, however, the City Council took a positive step toward prosecuting nefarious landlords, passing a new piece of legislation that doubles the maximum fines for landlords found to be harassing their tenants, as well as publicly listing offenders on the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development website.

The new legislation doubles the maximum fine for landlords found guilty of tenant harassment from $5,000 per unit to 10,000, and also doubles the minimum fine from $1,000 to $2,000 for repeat offenders. But that's not all! The names of The Guilty, along with the address of the building at which the harassing took place, will be published on HPD's website, which would probably be more effective if anyone ever looked at the HPD website, ever.

As a stopgap alternative for apartment-seekers, erstwhile Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also maintained a Worst Landlords Watchlist, though it's currently out-of-date. (A spokesperson for the current public advocate, Letitia James, assures us it will be updated this fall.)

“While there are plenty of landlords across this city who do the right thing by their tenants, we know there are select, consistent bad actors that make life hard in a city where finding quality, affordable housing is a challenge,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill along with Councilwoman Margaret Chin. “I am proud to cosponsor a bill that will combat harassment from landlords and will reduce the financial incentive to harass tenants out of their homes by raising violation fines. This bill is not meant to fine landlords the maximum penalty for every violation, but will give judges the discretion to levy the fine against the most egregious bad actors."

Often, though, the trouble is not overly mild penalties for landlords accused of wrongdoing—it's finding them guilty in the first place. Joel and Aaron Israel, two known slumlords infamous around much of gentrifying Brooklyn for summarily destroying the apartments of tenants they've failed to intimidate away, were hit with a subpoena from Governor Andrew Cuomo in April, after months of successfully evading housing court. Most of the tenants whose homes were destroyed are still not allowed back inside, thanks to unwieldy, drawn out legal proceedings.

Sam Spokony, a spokesperson for Margaret Chin, acknowledged that the new legislation will not hasten the prosecution process, but it does appropriately criminalize bad behavior, which in turn will give added incentive to tenants debating legal action.

"Increasing penalties on this isn't going to make it any easier to catch the people who are doing bad things," he said. "But in the grand scheme of housing in New York City, the idea that a tenant has the right to take their landlord to housing court over the neglected repairs, threats, or any number of things, is a relatively new concept."

Still, he said, it's a first step toward solving a problem that only recently gained recognition.

"It's definitely something we want to tackle going forward, but I think this kind of a singular accomplishment," he said. "This was one step, and we'll be continuing to work on the other side of things at the community level."

Chin's co-sponsorship of the legislation is notable, given that she received over $120,000 in campaign funding from Jobs For New York, a REBNY-funded group.

Additional reporting by Gerard Flynn