Tenants’ Right to Organize Under New York Law

Author: Bruce Feffer|May 20, 2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James published new guidance for law enforcement regarding tenants’ right to organize in the properties where they live...
Tenants’ Right to Organize Under New York Law

Tenants’ Right to Organize Under New York Law

New York Attorney General Letitia James published new guidance for law enforcement regarding tenants’ right to organize in the properties where they live...

On April 25, 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James published new guidance for law enforcement regarding tenants’ right to organize in the properties where they live. While the guidance is directed to police, both tenants and landlords should also understand the rights afforded to tenants under New York Real Property Law § 230.

New York Real Property Law § 230

New York’s Real Property Law § 230 creates certain protections for tenants that seek to organize. It states that landlords can’t interfere with the right of a tenant to form, join or participate in the lawful activities of a group or organization formed to protect the rights of tenants. Additionally, landlords can’t charge for the use of on-premises common space used for meeting for this purpose.

Section 1 of Real Property Law § 230 provides: “No landlord shall interfere with the right of a tenant to form, join or participate in the lawful activities of any group, committee or other organization formed to protect the rights of tenants; nor shall any landlord harass, punish, penalize, diminish, or withhold any right, benefit or privilege of a tenant under his tenancy for exercising such right.” 

Under Real Property Law § 230(2), New York tenants have a right to: “[M]eet without being required to pay a fee in any location on the landlord’s premises including a community or social room where use is normally subject to a fee which is devoted to the common use of all tenants in a peaceful manner, at reasonable hours and without obstructing access to the premises or facilities. No landlord shall deny such right.” 

Attorney General’s Memo Regarding Enforcement 

In her recent memo to law enforcement agencies, Attorney General James provided guidance about responding to landlords, superintendents, or other individuals that make complaints about tenants or their invited guests organizing or meeting within a building or its common grounds. She also warned law enforcement to be cautious to avoid unintentionally being used by landlords to violate the rights of tenants to organize and meet. Attorney General James specifically provided the following reminders regarding tenant organizing:

  • Landlords are prohibited from interfering with the right of a tenant to form, join, or participate in the lawful activities of any organization formed to protect the rights of tenants.
  • Landlords must not harass, punish, or penalize any tenant for exercising the right to organize. 
  • Law enforcement, when encountering a meeting of tenants and organizers in a building, may not disperse the meeting unless it violates narrow prohibitions outlined in the law, such as when the activities are not peaceful. 
  • Tenants are permitted to reach out to other tenants and widely distribute information concerning organizing activities.
  • Non-tenants, such as organizers and attorneys, are allowed to conduct tenant organizing activities on private property at the request of a tenant residing at that property. 
    • Such tenant organizers are also permitted to ask tenants for contact information to address issues in the building which may relate to such issues as repairs or the landlord’s rent setting policies. 
  • Tenant meetings in common areas of a building or property are permitted by law. Items necessary for the meeting such as a table and chairs may be placed in common areas for the meeting.
  • Law enforcement should not make determinations concerning whether a meeting is a fire hazard or other determinations outside their expertise.
  • Landlords who use force or otherwise attempt to disperse lawful tenant meetings may violate penal laws such as Disorderly Conduct, Menacing, Aggravated Harassment, or Assault. Law enforcement should use their discretion in enforcing these, and other appropriate penal laws to preserve the peace when tenants are exercising their rights under the Real Property Law.

Of course, these rights do not permit violence, harassment, vandalism or other illegal activity on the premises by any meeting organizers or participants. If criminal behavior is suspected or observed, Landlords or building employees may request police intervention.

Key Takeaway

Landlords and tenants should have a thorough understanding of Real Property Law § 230. Like law enforcement, landlords should also be mindful of when responding to tenant meetings and organizing activities, as an unlawful response could lead to liability.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Bruce Feffer, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.


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Tenants’ Right to Organize Under New York Law

Tenants’ Right to Organize Under New York Law
Author: Bruce Feffer

On April 25, 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James published new guidance for law enforcement regarding tenants’ right to organize in the properties where they live. While the guidance is directed to police, both tenants and landlords should also understand the rights afforded to tenants under New York Real Property Law § 230.

New York Real Property Law § 230

New York’s Real Property Law § 230 creates certain protections for tenants that seek to organize. It states that landlords can’t interfere with the right of a tenant to form, join or participate in the lawful activities of a group or organization formed to protect the rights of tenants. Additionally, landlords can’t charge for the use of on-premises common space used for meeting for this purpose.

Section 1 of Real Property Law § 230 provides: “No landlord shall interfere with the right of a tenant to form, join or participate in the lawful activities of any group, committee or other organization formed to protect the rights of tenants; nor shall any landlord harass, punish, penalize, diminish, or withhold any right, benefit or privilege of a tenant under his tenancy for exercising such right.” 

Under Real Property Law § 230(2), New York tenants have a right to: “[M]eet without being required to pay a fee in any location on the landlord’s premises including a community or social room where use is normally subject to a fee which is devoted to the common use of all tenants in a peaceful manner, at reasonable hours and without obstructing access to the premises or facilities. No landlord shall deny such right.” 

Attorney General’s Memo Regarding Enforcement 

In her recent memo to law enforcement agencies, Attorney General James provided guidance about responding to landlords, superintendents, or other individuals that make complaints about tenants or their invited guests organizing or meeting within a building or its common grounds. She also warned law enforcement to be cautious to avoid unintentionally being used by landlords to violate the rights of tenants to organize and meet. Attorney General James specifically provided the following reminders regarding tenant organizing:

  • Landlords are prohibited from interfering with the right of a tenant to form, join, or participate in the lawful activities of any organization formed to protect the rights of tenants.
  • Landlords must not harass, punish, or penalize any tenant for exercising the right to organize. 
  • Law enforcement, when encountering a meeting of tenants and organizers in a building, may not disperse the meeting unless it violates narrow prohibitions outlined in the law, such as when the activities are not peaceful. 
  • Tenants are permitted to reach out to other tenants and widely distribute information concerning organizing activities.
  • Non-tenants, such as organizers and attorneys, are allowed to conduct tenant organizing activities on private property at the request of a tenant residing at that property. 
    • Such tenant organizers are also permitted to ask tenants for contact information to address issues in the building which may relate to such issues as repairs or the landlord’s rent setting policies. 
  • Tenant meetings in common areas of a building or property are permitted by law. Items necessary for the meeting such as a table and chairs may be placed in common areas for the meeting.
  • Law enforcement should not make determinations concerning whether a meeting is a fire hazard or other determinations outside their expertise.
  • Landlords who use force or otherwise attempt to disperse lawful tenant meetings may violate penal laws such as Disorderly Conduct, Menacing, Aggravated Harassment, or Assault. Law enforcement should use their discretion in enforcing these, and other appropriate penal laws to preserve the peace when tenants are exercising their rights under the Real Property Law.

Of course, these rights do not permit violence, harassment, vandalism or other illegal activity on the premises by any meeting organizers or participants. If criminal behavior is suspected or observed, Landlords or building employees may request police intervention.

Key Takeaway

Landlords and tenants should have a thorough understanding of Real Property Law § 230. Like law enforcement, landlords should also be mindful of when responding to tenant meetings and organizing activities, as an unlawful response could lead to liability.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Bruce Feffer, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.