City Council Considers Tenant Protection Bill Package
Speaker Corey Johnson recently introduced a package of bills that focus on protecting tenants in rent-stabilized apartments from harassment by the owners. With the speaker in support of them, the bills have a good chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Council with some minor revisions and amendments. However, the legislation is likely to face strong opposition from New York’s real estate industry, and it’s not immediately clear whether the bills have the full support of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Many of the bills in the package were first proposed months ago. Here’s a rundown of what has been proposed:
Intro 30-2018: Landlords fund temporary housing. This bill would require a property owner to deposit money in an escrow account with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) equal to 10 percent of the rent roll for five years preceding the issuance of a vacate order to fund temporary housing for displaced tenants. This bill is being sponsored by Councilmember Margaret Chin.
Intro 59-2018: Understanding the impact of buyouts. A buyout agreement is an agreement where the owner pays the tenant money to vacate his or her apartment. Buyouts are an increasing focus of concern for tenant advocates, because they can be used to coerce tenants to give up a rent-stabilized apartment in neighborhoods where it’s hard to find other affordable options.
This bill would require HPD to report on median market rate rents by community district and number of bedrooms. It would also require the person making a buyout offer to disclose such median market rate rents and calculate the number of months of that rent the buyout offer would cover. The bill was originally introduced in January and is being sponsored by Councilmember Robert Cornegy.
Intro 551-2018: Filing buyout agreements. This bill would require owners of rent-regulated apartments who enter into buyout agreements with their tenants to file those deals with HPD within 45 days of execution. A failure to file the agreement would result in a civil penalty of $100 per day for every day past the deadline that the buyout agreement is not filed. The bill would also require that HPD annually report information to the mayor and Council. The bill is sponsored by Councilmember Mark Levine.
Intro 975-2018: Linking permits to violations. This bill would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to deny building permits based on the number of serious code violations at a property. The denial would occur when a building with fewer than 35 units has an average of at least three open, immediately hazardous or hazardous Housing Maintenance Code violations or immediately hazardous or major Construction Code violations per unit, or, if a building has 35 units or more, it has an average of at least two open, immediately hazardous or hazardous Housing Maintenance Code violations or immediately hazardous or major Construction Code violations per unit.
The law would exclude permits sought to correct DOB or HPD violations. This bill is sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James.
Intro 977-2018: Cracking down on application errors. This bill would expand the mandatory sanctions applicable for submitting incorrect professionally certified applications for construction document approval to those whose applications within any 12-month period contained errors that resulted in a stop-work order.
It would also require DOB to submit an annual report to the Council on registered design professionals who have been excluded, suspended, or otherwise sanctioned by the department. This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Antonio Reynoso.
Intro 1107-2018: Making contractors responsible for tenant-protection plans. This bill would require contractors to prepare and submit for approval tenant protection plans when seeking a permit to perform construction. This bill would repeal the law that requires architects or engineers to prepare and submit such plans. This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.
Intro 1171-2018: False documentation crackdown. This bill would require DOB to:
- Share information with the Department of Finance (DOF) to identify cases of false statements regarding occupied and rent-regulated housing;
- Request information from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to identify false statements regarding occupied and rent-regulated housing;
- Conduct an audit of an owner’s whole portfolio of properties using information obtained from DOF if the owner has been caught either failing to obtain a building permit or submitting false statements regarding occupied and rent-regulated housing on an application for a building permit;
- Audit 25 percent of buildings on HPD’s speculation watch list for their compliance with building permit requirements on an annual basis; and
- Audit the whole portfolio of owners who have an unusually high number of amended building permits.
When DOB finds evidence of a false statement, the bill would also require DOB to:
- Send written notice to the City Council, the Department of Investigations, the DHCR, and the Tenant Protection Unit;
- Refer the matter to the relevant District Attorney and the Attorney General for potential criminal prosecution; and
- Report on the punitive actions it took in every case in which it found evidence of a falsified application for a building permit.
This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Ritchie Torres.
Intro 1241-2018: Expanding penalties for false certification. This bill would expand penalties for violating the DOB’s professional certification program to apply to the offending professional’s firm of employment as well as the professional personally. This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel.
Intro 1242-2018: Adding DOB violations to HPD’s public database. This bill would expand the HPD online property owner registry by requiring inclusion of DOB violations related to construction as harassment, including but not limited to work without a permit, work in violation of a stop-work order, and work done absent or in violation of a lawful tenant protection plan.
The bill also would require HPD to make best efforts to obtain rent overcharge information from the DHCR and incorporate that information into the registry. This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Diana Ayala.
Intro 1247-2018: Informing tenants about violations. This bill would require DOB to provide copies of any notice of violation issued against a property to the residents of that property as well as the property owner or managing agent. DOB must include a form explaining how the resident may provide testimony or otherwise participate in the adjudication process for the notice, as well as confirming the date and time for the adjudication. The bill is sponsored by Councilmember Fernando Cabrera.
Intro 1257-2018: Access required. This bill would require a holder of a DOB permit to grant access to the city agency as a condition of continuing the work and retaining the permit. This bill is sponsored by Robert Cornegy.
Intro 1258-2018: Auditing process servers. This bill would require that the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs annually audit the records of at least 20 percent of licensed process servers who have served for a housing court proceeding. Housing court has been under scrutiny for allegedly giving insufficient notice that a case carrying an eviction threat exists.
The bill would also require that litigants are informed that a process server or process serving agency has failed its audit. This bill is sponsored Robert Cornegy.
Intro 1274-2018: Rent histories. The legislation aims to increase transparency and ensure that tenants are not being overcharged. This bill would require owners of rent-stabilized units to obtain the previous four years of rent history from the DHCR and provide such information to new tenants. The bill is sponsored by Mark Levine.
Intro 1275-2018: False statements and permits. This bill would deny any permits for one year to property owners who falsely state, on construction documents, the number of occupied units in the building. Property owners who perform construction on a tenant-occupied property without a permit would also be denied any permits for one year from the date their violation is discovered. In such buildings, permits would be granted only for emergency work or to correct outstanding code violations to protect public health and safety. The bill is sponsored by Councilmember Keith Powers.
Intro 1277-2018: Inspecting allegedly vacant buildings. This bill would require DOB to inspect 15 percent of buildings where construction applications indicate that the building was previously occupied and is now vacant, before approving applications for those construction permits. The bill is sponsored by Letitia James.
Intro 1278-2018: Strengthening tenant-protection plans. This bill would require the DOB commissioner to review tenant protection plans to ensure that dust mitigation and debris removal efforts are described to demonstrate compliance with the New York State Air Quality Standards, New York City Air Pollution Control Code, and New York City Construction Codes.
Tenant protection plans would also be reviewed for details demonstrating compliance efforts in accordance with the New York City Fire Code, the New York City Electrical Code, and the New York City Plumbing Code. The bill would also require that DOB conduct inspections of 20 percent of sites with tenant protection plans within seven days of work commencing and inspect sites again every 120 days until construction is complete to verify compliance with the tenant protection plan. DOB would also be required to conduct inspections in response to complaints about construction within 72 hours. This bill is sponsored by Councilmember Carlina Rivera.
Intro 1279-2018: Checking that violations were actually corrected. This bill would require DOB and HPD to audit no fewer than 25 percent of certifications of corrections filed by owners to ensure that owners have addressed the violations they receive related to their property. This bill is sponsored by Helen Rosenthal.
Intro 1280-2018: Transparency and accuracy in permits. This bill would require that construction documents for alterations also identify the total number of units in the building and the total number of occupied units in the building. The bill would also establish specific civil and criminal penalties for submitting false information to obtain a Plan/Work Application building permit of no less than $10,000 for the first offense and no less than $25,000 for each subsequent offense. This bill is sponsored by Helen Rosenthal.