Council Votes on Tenant Anti-Displacement Legislation

The Council will vote on legislation targeting landlords who use exploitative practices to force tenants from their homes

City Hall – The New York City Council on Wednesday will vote on a package of 17 bills aimed at protecting tenants and preventing landlords from forcing people out of their homes.

This package includes measures that prevent landlords from using construction as a means of harassment, penalize building owners who falsify information on construction documents, and curtail the use of exploitative buyout agreements. The bills also increase enforcement of existing tenant protection laws and require landlords to obtain and release four years of rental history to tenants.

“This legislative package seeks to prevent tenant displacement by giving them valuable tools to stay in their homes and in their communities. It penalizes abusive landlords and all of those who harass tenants and try to force them out of their homes. We are in an affordable housing crisis, and these bills will help. The measures include requiring landlords to explain buyout offers to tenants more clearly; requiring the Department of Buildings to inspect buildings that applied for construction permits to assure there are no tenants living there; and increasing sanctions for inaccurate or falsified construction documents,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The Council will also vote to extend the June 1 compliance date for Local Law 196, which requires site safety training for construction workers.

In addition, the Council will vote on legislation that would require building owners post relevant hurricane evacuation information in common areas.

The Council will also vote on a resolution calling on the State Legislature to pass the “Protect Our Courts Act.”

Finally, the Council will vote on several finance and land use items.

Tenant Anti-Displacement Legislation

Requiring the Disclosure of Information Regarding Buyout Agreements

Introduction 551, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would require that, where owners of apartments enter into “buyout agreements” with their tenants, the owners must electronically submit certain information about the terms of the agreement to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) within 90 days of execution.

Requiring Landlords to Obtain and Provide Tenants with the Previous Four Years of Rental History

Introduction 1274, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would require owners of multiple dwellings to obtain the previous four years rent history from the department of housing and community renewal for each dwelling unit, if available, and provide such information to the current tenant of each such dwelling unit.

“For too long, residents have been unaware of their legal rent as prescribed by the state, overpaying landlords hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year,” said Council Member Levine. “Requiring landlords to disclose a unit’s rent history would break down a significant barrier, making it easier to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable if a tenant’s rent goes up dramatically overnight. As the State Legislature debates an omnibus housing bill in Albany, I strongly urge them to consider including legislation that would increase the rental history disclosure requirement from four to ten years. I would immediately introduce a companion bill in the City Council to support such action. Additionally, the practice of allowing landlords to make buyout agreements behind closed doors was a regulatory blind-spot that lent itself to abuse. We can now ensure that tenants will not be taken advantage of through these deals while protecting affordable homes from being deregulated through unfair practices.”

Denying Building Permits Where a Residential Building Has an Excessive Number of Violations

Introduction 975, sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan, would require the Department of Buildings to deny a building permit when a building of fewer than 35 units has an average of at least three open, immediately hazardous or major housing maintenance code violations or immediately hazardous or major construction code violations per unit, or, when a building has 35 units or more, it has an average of at least two open, immediately hazardous or major housing maintenance code violations or immediately hazardous or major construction code violations per unit.

“People call and come into my office all the time with complaints about bad landlords. But when landlords don’t hold up their end of the bargain, there is often not much we can do. This bill changes that by forcing landlords to uphold quality of life for their tenants. If we have to push them to do the work they are obligated to do, we will,” said Council Member Justin Brannan.

Identifying Unlawful Statements in Submissions to the Department of Buildings

Introduction 1171, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Department of Finance (DOF) to share information in order to identify false statements regarding occupied and rent-regulated housing. Additionally this bill would require DOB to request information from the Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DCHR) to identify false statements regarding occupied and rent-regulated housing and require DOB to 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. This bill also would require DOB to audit 25% of buildings on the Department of Housing Development and Preservation’s speculation watch list for their compliance with building permit requirements on an annual basis as well as require DOB to audit the whole portfolio of owners who have an unusually high number of amended building permits that indicate a change in occupancy, a change in whether the building contains rent-regulated units, or a change that would require the owner to submit an application for a new permit to the department. When DOB has made a finding that an owner made a false statement, the bill would also require DOB to: (a) send written notice to the NYC Council, the Department of Investigations, DHCR, and the Tenant Protection Unit; (b) refer the matter to the relevant District Attorney and the Attorney General for potential criminal prosecution; and (c) report on the punitive actions it took in every case in which it found evidence of a falsified application for a building permit.

“We refuse to stand by idly while real estate companies and bad landlords play Russian roulette with the safety of tenants and the affordability of rent. This legislation will close a loophole and require the City’s Department of Buildings and the Department of Finance to work together and use information collected by both departments regarding occupied and rent-regulated buildings to identify false statements made to the DOB that may be unlawful. I look forward to its passage and enactment into law,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

Permitting Sanctions for Submitting Incorrect Professionally Certified Applications for Construction Document Approval.

Introduction 977, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would permit the Department of Buildings (DOB) to sanction registered design professionals who submit professionally certified applications for construction document approval within any 12-month period that contain errors that result in a stop work order. It would also require that the DOB maintain a database in a non-proprietary machine-readable format that permits automatic processing, of registered design professionals who have been excluded, suspended or otherwise sanctioned by DOB.

“Currently, all across New York City, there are instances in which building design professionals submit applications with false information to the Department of Buildings (DOB),” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “Regardless of whether false information is submitted as a result of negligence or in an attempt to game the system, the Department of Buildings should be authorized to hold offenders accountable. My bill will enable the DOB Commissioner to take necessary action against bad actors and will require the Department to report offenders to the Council. Thank you to my Council colleagues for supporting this legislation to hold design professionals to the highest standards of safety, quality, and integrity.”

Providing Residents with Copies of Notices of Violations.

Introduction 1247, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would require owners of residential buildings to provide copies of any notice of violation issued against a property to the residents of that property. Additionally, the Department of Buildings must create a pamphlet or flyer explaining the adjudication process for such violations, to be distributed with the copies of notices of violations.

“Tenants are not typically aware when a notice of violation has been issued about their building or a specific unit in their building. Even when they are, they might not how the adjudication process works, or how they can be involved in hearings. Intro 1247-A would require residential building owners to provide copies of any violation notice issued against a property to the residents of that property.  If the violation affects all residents a copy of the notice would have to be conspicuously posted in the lobby. If the violation affects an occupied unit, the owner would have to provide a copy of the notice to residents of each adjacent unit. Intro 1247-A also requires the Department of Buildings to create a pamphlet or flyer explaining the adjudication process for the violations, to be distributed with copies of the violation notices. This bill is about tenant empowerment- through information and participation in processes that affect their lives,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera

Inspections of Construction Sites for Which the Department of Buildings has Issued a Permit

Introduction 1257, sponsored by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to issue a stop work order if an inspector is unable to gain access to a construction site and has reason to believe that work is being done in violation of the law.

Requiring Disclosures by Persons Making Buyout Offers

Introduction 59, sponsored by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr, would require persons making buyout offers to make certain disclosures. This bill would also require the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to report on median asking rents, disaggregated by community district and number of bedrooms.  

Mandating Audits of the
Records of Process Servers

Introduction 1258, sponsored by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr, would require that the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) annually audit the records of at least 20% of licensed process servers who have served at least one summons, subpoena, notice, citation or other process for a housing court proceeding. The bill would also require that process servers notify the DCA every six months if they have served process for a housing court proceeding. This bill would further require that the DCA post on its website, and notify process serving agencies, when a process server has been disciplined, or where the process server’s license has been suspended, revoked, or license renewal denied.

“Tenants in this city continue to face the pressure of rising costs and an increasingly unaffordable housing market,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “Too often, tenants are forced out of their home merely because they do not have the time or resources to combat unscrupulous landlords seeking to extract higher rents. I believe this package of legislation, including my bills – Intros. 59 & 1257 – will level the playing field for tenant by affording greater protection under the law, so more New Yorkers can stay in their homes.”

Denying Permits for Occupied Buildings

Introduction 1275, sponsored by Council Member Keith Powers, would deny permits for 1 year for a building following a determination that a false statement about the occupancy status was made on a construction application for that building or for a building following a determination that work was conducted without a permit while such building was occupied.

“My tenant protection bill, Intro. 1275, targets bad landlords. If landlords are caught lying about the occupancy of their buildings on construction permit applications, or doing construction work without a permit, they will now be denied permits for a year,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “This legislation protects tenants from landlord harassment and being forced out by means of construction, and I am glad to have the support of the Council and my colleagues in putting tenants first.”

Requiring Heightened Review of Tenant Protection Plans

Introduction 1278, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, would require the Department of Buildings to approve Tenant Protection Plans prior to construction and periodically inspect construction sites to ensure compliance with approved Tenant Protection Plans.

“New York City tenants are under constant threat in 2019 from bad-acting landlords and developers fueled by rampant over-speculation. While we must work to make New York more affordable, we also need to protect tenants, and today’s package of legislation will do just that. I’m proud to join Speaker Johnson and all the other members who are passing bills as part of this tenant protection package, and I’m particularly proud that my bill, Intro 1278, will require stronger tenant protection plans and building code standards,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera

Expanding Sanctions for Submission of Professionally-Certified False Building Permit Applications or Plans.

Introduction 1241, sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, would expand penalties for violating the Department of Buildings’ professional certification program to apply to the offending professional’s supervisor as well as the professional personally.

Requiring the Department of Buildings to Perform Preliminary Inspections of Purportedly Unoccupied Buildings.

Introduction 1277, sponsored by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, would require the Department of Buildings to perform preliminary inspections to verify the occupancy status of purportedly unoccupied buildings undergoing construction.

“New York City is growing quickly. In the meantime, families are being harassed and forced to leave their homes by landlords.  While the City continues to grow, contractors must do the right thing and receive proper approval from the City of New York.  As developers rush to expand,  Intro 1241 and Intro 1277 will protect NY’er’s in a climate when the City is more worried about development rather than protecting our families,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

Expanding Available Data in the Online Property Owner Registry.

Introduction 1242, sponsored by Council Member Diana Ayala, would expand the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) online property owner registry by requiring inclusion of Department of Building (DOB) violations related to construction as harassment, including violations of work without a permit and work in violation of a stop work order. It would also require HPD to include rent overcharge information from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and incorporate that information into the registry, if available.

Requiring Submittal of Construction Documents, Applicant and Owner Statements, and Tenant Protection Plans.

Introduction 1107, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would shift the responsibility of retaining a design professional to prepare a tenant protection plan from building owners to contractors. The bill would require statements by buildings owners and contractors regarding the occupancy of a building and the scope of work of a construction project. Finally, this bill would create the option to submit phased tenant protection plans to reflect the current stage of work.

Requiring Building Owners and Applicants Seeing Altered Construction Documents Identify Occupied Units.

Introduction 1280, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require that construction documents for alterations contain a statement signed by the owner and applicant identifying any occupied units in the building. The bill would also establish specific civil and criminal penalties for submitting false information to obtain a building permit of no less than $10,000 for the first offense, and no less than $25,000 for each subsequent offense.

Requiring the DOB and the HPD to audit certifications of correction.

Introduction 1279, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to audit Certifications of Correction filed in connection with immediately hazardous violations.

Construction as a form of tenant harassment not only contributes to our affordable housing crisis, it puts tenant safety at risk. The necessity for my three bills is illustrated by cases across the city, including a building in my district which has lost two-thirds of its 300 rent-stabilized apartments since 2007. This exodus of tenants has been driven by massive construction projects, and the building owner’s persistent attempts to evade existing tenant protection laws, including routinely lying about the presence of rent regulated tenants in construction documents filed with the City. These malicious actions meant to displace tenants are beyond unacceptable, and through the leadership of Speaker Johnson, we are taking action,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Extending Existing Compliance Dates

Introduction 1533, sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, would extend the existing compliance dates for Local Law 196 for the year 2017. Local Law 196 for the year 2017 requires, in part, that construction workers complete an Occupational Safety and Health Thirty-Hour Course (OSHA-30), Occupational Safety and Health Ten-Hour Course (OSHA-10) course with an additional 20 hours of safety training, or a 100-hour training program approved by the Department of Buildings. This bill would extend the deadline for these training requirements to December 1, 2019, and would allow the Department of Buildings (DOB) to further extend the deadline to June 1, 2020.

Posting of Hurricane Evacuation Zone and Evacuation Center Information in Multiple Dwellings. 

Introduction 562, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, would require the owners of multiple dwellings to post notice in a common area, or in additional areas as required by the Fire Commissioner, stating the relevant hurricane evacuation zone number for that building and providing information on the presence of evacuation centers.

“We learned from the City’s response to Superstorm Sandy that critical information – like how, when and where to evacuate to – never trickled down to the most vulnerable communities at the frontlines of the storm’s devastation,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “Many residents did not have adequate access to information about evacuation procedures – when to go, where to go, how to get there, or where the nearest emergency center was located. Amid the chaos and confusion, we saw many high-rise apartment buildings residents who did not or could not evacuate stranded without power, sometimes for days. My legislation, a direct response to those painful lessons learned, will help close a dangerous communication gap between government and residents. As the impact and threat of climate change grows, we must ensure all New Yorkers have access to this kind of critical life-saving information.

Protect Our Courts Act

Resolution 828, sponsored by Council Member Carlos Menchaca, commends the New York State Office of Court Administration for promulgating rules that require a judicial warrant for any civil arrest in a New York State court and calls on the State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the “Protect Our Courts Act” (A.2176 / S.425), in order to further protect certain interested parties or people from civil arrest while going to, remaining at, or returning from the place of such court proceeding.

“Today, the City Council stands to pass Res. 828-A protecting the ability of New Yorkers to access our courts. While Trump’s deportation machine reaches into all corners of New Yorkers’ lives, this has been particularly pronounced in court houses where ICE operations have increased by 1736% since 2016. The result, not surprisingly, has been widespread fear and a marked decrease in the willingness of New Yorkers to cooperate with the justice system. This resolution calls on New York State to pass the Protect Our Courts Act. As a City that is home to over 3 million immigrants, we will not be complicit in the federal government’s anti-immigrant agenda, and we must take every step necessary to protect the sanctity and effectiveness of our courts,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

The Council will also vote on the following Article XI property tax exemptions approved by the Committee on Finance:

Putnam Gardens, in Council Member Cohen’s district in the Bronx, will receive a partial, 30-year property tax exemption to preserve 90 units of affordable rental housing.

2997 Marion Avenue, in Council Member Cohen’s district in the Bronx, will receive a full, 40-year property tax exemption to construct 18 units of affordable rental housing.

Soundview Park Townhomes, in Council Member Diaz Sr.’s district in the Bronx, will receive a full, 40-year property tax exemption to construct 72 units of affordable cooperative housing.

Apex Place Phase I, in Council Member Koslowitz’s district in Queens, will receive a full, 40-year property tax exemption to construct 183 units of affordable rental housing.

Apex Place Phase II, in Council Member Koslowitz’s district in Queens, will receive a full, 40-year property tax exemption to construct 259 units of affordable rental housing.

Finally, the Council will vote on the following land use items:

270 Park Avenue

Application in Council Member Keith Powers’ district for a zoning text amendment to facilitate a new 70-story office building that will serve as the new headquarters for JPMorgan Chase Bank. This is the first site to take advantage of the East Midtown Rezoning, which was passed by the Council in 2017. The application was modified through the ULURP process, as the applicants responded to feedback to increase the amount of public open space on the site from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet along Madison Avenue. The Council will be modifying the application to make the text apply only to the project site.

“JPMorgan’s plans for 270 Park Avenue exceed the vision for the City’s first project under East Midtown Rezoning,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “This development sets a precedent for what is possible for Midtown. The project fulfills the intention of the rezoning with more jobs, neighborhood improvements, and transit enhancements. I am hopeful others will use this as an example to bring substantial public impact. JPMorgan has been a conscientious partner in planning its new headquarters, and took input from the City and community in a way that will bring significant improvements to Midtown.”

1050 Pacific Street Rezoning

The Council will vote to approve 1050 Pacific Street, an application in Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo’s district for rezoning from M1-1 to M1-4/R7A to facilitate the development of a mixed-use building with 103 units of housing, including 31 MIH affordable housing units, and ground floor commercial, light industrial, and open space in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

1010 Pacific Street Rezoning

The Council will vote to approve 1010 Pacific Street, an application in Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo’s district for rezoning from M1-1 to R7A/C2-4 to facilitate the development of a mixed-use building with 124 units of housing, including 39 MIH affordable housing units, and ground floor commercial space in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

1640 Flatbush Avenue

Proposed rezoning to facilitate
the development of a 13-story mixed-use building with 114 units of housing,
including 29 affordable units, in Council District 45. The Council will be
modifying the application to remove Mandatory Inclusionary Option 2 (MIH) and
add MIH Option 1

1921 Atlantic Avenue

The Council will vote to approve 1921 Atlantic Avenue, an application in Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel’s district for rezoning, disposition of city-owned property, and an urban renewal plan amendment to facilitate the development of a 14-story mixed-use building with 236 units of affordable housing ranging from 30% to 80% of AMI, commercial space, and community facility space in the Ocean Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.

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