City Council Considers Monitoring ‘Predatory Landlords’

The New York City Council recently introduced three bills intended to provide greater protection to tenants at risk of being illegally evicted. The three pieces of legislation target so-called predatory equity landlords. Predatory landlords refer to landlords who buy buildings at high prices in the hope they will earn back the money once the rent-stabilized or rent-controlled units are deregulated.

If these bills become law, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development would have to record and publish a watchlist of building owners who have a history of engaging in practices associated with predatory equity landlords (a high debt-to-income ratio, high levels of turnover, tenant harassment, among others). A second bill would give greater credibility to tenants who live in buildings with high debt-to-income ratios if they allege harassment in housing court. The third bill would expand the city’s ability to foreclose and sell buildings where owners have incurred high numbers of unsatisfied building violations. The bills were introduced by Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Dan Garodnick, Jumaane Williams, and Ritchie Torres.

HPD has opposed elements of the proposed legislation. At a recent city council hearing, HPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement and Neighborhood Services stated, “Not all owners who enter into overly optimistic or poor investments intend to, or do, disrupt the lives of tenants or engage in bad behavior. And even owners who intend to try to convert rent-regulated units to higher rents may stop short of engaging in harassment, neglect, or other displacement tactics.”