City Council Passes ‘Certification of No Harassment’ Legislation

The City Council recently passed a bill implementing a new tenant protection policy. The “Certification of No Harassment” (CONH) legislation requires covered building owners seeking to demolish or make significant alterations to their building to prove they have not engaged in harassment before they can get the permits they need from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB). The program will first function as a pilot, primarily focused on recently rezoned or soon-to-be-rezoned NYC neighborhoods, and other neighborhoods identified as vulnerable by the working group behind this legislation, including Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Washington Heights.

Specifically, the CONH pilot will include:

  • Any building citywide where there has been a final determination of harassment in court or by NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) within the preceding five years will automatically be denied a CONH should its owner apply for a permit with DOB for covered work.
  • Any building citywide where a full vacate order has been issued, or where a building has been placed in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), 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 that meet a Building Qualification Index (triggered by changes in ownership and/or building distress) will also be required to apply for the CONH for covered work.

Once a building owner subject to the program applies for a Certification of No Harassment, building tenants, community groups, the community board, and elected officials will be notified. HPD (with assistance, in some instances, from a designated community organization) 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 (OATH).

According to the legislation, if an owner is found to have harassed tenants by the OATH judge, the owner would not be able to pull those permits for five years, unless the owner agrees to make a substantial portion of their building affordable to low-income families, with no public subsidy.