Mayor Promises Protections for Tenants in State of the City Address
Mayor de Blasio vowed to create new protections for tenants in his sixth annual State of the City address, a sweeping speech focused on the difficulty of city living. During the speech he announced the creation of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants. De Blasio created the office mid-speech, pulling out an executive order from beneath his lectern.
“When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement agents will be on the ground to stop it in time,” he said. “If the fines and the penalties don’t cut it, we will seize their buildings and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”
Specifically, de Blasio pledges to take steps to annually seize upwards of 40 of the most distressed multiple dwelling buildings and transition them to more responsible ownership. Local law is required to give the city broad authority to transfer these buildings. Buildings that fail to correct violations and pay dollars owed to the city within an established time frame will go through process that includes City Council approval prior to being transitioned into more responsible ownership.
De Blasio also pledges to advocate for dramatically increased financial penalties against landlords, such as quintupling certain city penalties (including false certifications of repairs) through local law and pushing for state law that auto-converts judgments into liens after one year, which will force owners to make repairs to avoid losing buildings through tax lien sales.
According to accompanying State of the City literature, the core responsibilities of the new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants will be to serve as a prominent central point of contact in the administration for tenant advocates. This means the office will serve as central resource for advocacy groups to raise issues and get results from agencies; elevate building- or landlord-specific concerns or challenges to relevant agencies; and bring government and advocate task forces together to address issues such as targeting neighborhoods with the most harassment issues.
The mayor also intends the office to lead comprehensive tenant outreach and education on anti-harassment initiatives. This includes convening and coordinating the activities of HPD, DOB, Human Resources Administration, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, Law Department, Department of Finance, Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, NYC Commission on Human Rights, and the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. The mayor also wants the office to lead and strengthen the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force; work with agencies to further develop data tools and strategies to better target buildings/owners; and track outreach efforts across all agencies and metrics at a building/neighborhood level.