Thursday, September 3, 2015

Protection against landlord harassment on relocation

From NYC Council Housing Chairman Jumaane Williams:




Photo Credit: William Alatriste, NYC COUNCIL
BRONX, NYOn September 3, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Intro. 700 into law, co-sponsored by Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council's Housing and Buildings Committeewhich is part of a Tenant Protection Package that aims to address the poor business practices of unscrupulous tenant relocation specialists, or as they are more commonly known, tenant relocatorsThe package of bills were passed by the New York City Council on August 13, 2015.

In New York City, there has been a long history of owners offering tenants money to vacate their apartments. In recent years, however, there have been complaints from tenants that buyouts have become a form of harassment. This issue arises most frequently when building owners hire tenant relocation specialists, many of whom receive a fee for each vacancy, to try to convince tenants, many of whom are rent-regulated, to leave their apartments. Int. 682, Int. 700, and Int. 757 are intended to address this issue.
  • Int. 700, sponsored by Council Members Williams and Daniel Garodnick, would amend the Housing Maintenance Code's definition of "harassment" to make it unlawful for a dwelling owner, or an owner's agent, to make a tenant buyout offer without first notifying the tenant that they have the right to refuse the buyout offer, without disclosing that the person making the buyout offer has been hired by the tenant's landlord. 
  • Int. 757, sponsored by the Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would amend the administrative code to include repeated buyout offers, made after a tenant has asked for them to stop, as part of the definition of harassment under the Housing Maintenance Code. 
  • Int. 682, sponsored by Council Members Garodnick and Williams, would create a licensing scheme for tenant relocation specialists.  Under this legislation, the relocators would have to become licensed by first passing an exam, furnishing a surety bond, and paying a licensing fee. 
Penalties for violations range from $1,000 to $10,000 for a first offense, and $2,000 to $10,000 for subsequent offenses. 

"Our city cannot stand by while tenants are being harassed out of their homes. There are too many unscrupulous owners of rent stabilized buildings who will do anything to have a tenant vacate their apartment, including hiring a tenant relocator to get the job done. Tenants don't deserve to be intimidated out of their homes, and should be informed of their rights to refuse buyout offers. I am proud to sponsor this legislation which will combat such egregious tenant harassment behavior, and thank Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito and my Council colleagues for pushing these important reforms," said Council Member Williams.
"We won't let tenants be intimidated and forced out of their homes. These new laws protect tenants from harassment and aggressive buyout schemes, and simultaneously help the City keep neighborhoods affordable. We have a strong partnership with the City Council standing up for tenants, and we thank the sponsors of these laws for helping combat these unscrupulous practices," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"These new laws will protect tenants and keep the process of buyout offers by landlords fair and honest," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "New Yorkers living in rent-regulated housing have the right to stay in their homes if they wish, and should never feel pressured, intimidated or coerced into accepting offers they don't want to take. With today's bill signings, New York City is ensuring that tenants are protected from harassment and coercion. I thank Council Member Garodnick, Housing and Buildings Chair Jumaane Williams, and the de Blasio administration for their partnership and staunch commitment to protecting our city's tenants."
"People deserve to be able to stay in their homes, free from harassment," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "These bills will protect tenants from owners who cross the line in their efforts induce tenants to vacate their units."

"We cannot allow tenant relocators that use dishonest methods to get tenants out of their apartments to continue that practice. As the representative of Bushwick, where we are seeing hundreds of tenants lured and bullied to accept ridiculous buyout offers, I know firsthand the negative impact that it has on families and vulnerable individuals that are trying to hold on to the limited affordable housing stock in our community. It is apparent that something needs to be done and I look forward to working with Speaker Mark-Viverito, Chair Williams and Council Member Garodnick to ensure that these landlords, and the tenant relocators they employ, do not continue to take advantage of decent, hard-working New Yorkers," said Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs.

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