Landlords who harass tenants to have a harder time getting NYC building permits
Lander sponsors 36-month pilot program
It’s illegal for landlords to harass tenants in order to drive them from their buildings, but in many cases this behavior is just part of business. Now, however, New York City has put a pilot program in place to put teeth into enforcing the law.
On Thursday the City Council passed “Certification of No Harassment” legislation which will require specific building owners seeking to demolish or make significant alterations to their building to prove they have not engaged in harassment before they can get permits from the NYC Department of Buildings. Councilmember Brad Lander is the legislation’s prime sponsor.
If a landlord is found to have harassed tenants, they would not be able to obtain a COHN permit for five years — unless they make 20 – 25 percent of their building affordable to low-income families, with no public subsidy.
The citywide pilot program will last 36 months.
“Unfortunately, for some unscrupulous landlords in NYC, harassing tenants is part of the business plan,” Lander said in a statement. “Once a tenant is driven out, a landlord can make significant renovations, or demolish and rebuild, and then dramatically raise rents. The Certification of No Harassment program is a strong new tool to fight that business model.”
Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, cited the example of Park Slope, where many families were displaced as a result of the 2003 and 2007 rezonings.
“Had this tool existed, nearly 1,000 families in our area could have been helped,” Uz said in a statement.
It’s not too late for nearby Gowanus, Uz said. “With this legislation, the hundreds that remain in rent regulated housing have additional protections as Gowanus prepares for future rezonings.”
Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) also applauded the legislation.
“Harassment of tenants by landlords is an all too pervasive problem throughout our city and this measure will take significant steps to ensure tenants’ rights are protected,” she said.
The pilot will not cover all NYC landlords, but will include the following:
* Any building citywide where there has been a final determination of harassment in court (or by NYS Homes and Community Renewal) within the preceding five years will automatically be denied a CONH should they apply for a permit with DOB.
* Any building citywide where a full vacate order has been issued, or where a building has been placed in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program, will be required to apply for a CONH for covered work.
* In eight community districts that indicate significant distress based on an analysis conducted by the Task Force, as well as community districts that have undergone city-sponsored neighborhood-wide rezonings, a wider range of buildings will be required to apply for the CONH for covered work.
These neighborhoods include Highbridge/Grand Concourse, Tremont/Fordham and Kingsbridge Heights/Norwood in the Bronx; Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, East New York and Brownsville in Brooklyn; Morningside Heights/Columbia), East Harlem and Washington Heights in Manhattan and Far Rockaway in Queens.
Once a building owner subject to the program applies for the certificate, HPD will collect comments from current and former tenants and conduct an investigation as to whether or not there is evidence of harassment within the previous five years. If HPD determines that there is evidence of harassment, a hearing will be held at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
The program has been in place in Hell’s Kitchen since 1974 and also in single-room occupancy buildings citywide.
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