Last week, the City Council passed a slew of bills aimed at tenant protection, and while not yet law, the mayor has indicated he’ll support them.
This is a tremendous relief. We believe these bills would go a long way in protecting tenants from landlords who flout the law, from making aggressive buyout offers to using construction as a form of harassment to blatantly lying on applications.
Additionally, the fact that so many housing bills were introduced shows how badly this intervention was needed in the first place. A perfect example is Council Member Keith Powers’ bill to crack down on landlords who lie in construction documents about whether or not their buildings have rent regulated tenants. This legislation was inspired by behavior by the Kushner Companies, who failed to disclose the presence of such tenants in 17 buildings a total of 42 times when filing applications to the Department of Buildings.
Another helpful bill will improve communication between city agencies with oversight of housing, making it easier to catch these inaccuracies.
Another bill that could be a game changer is one that would make it mandatory for tenants to be provided with four years of rental history. Having tenants armed with this information without the onus being placed on them to have to seek it out themselves will make owners think twice about attempting to overcharge people.
Then there are buyout agreements and offers, both of which would have to be disclosed under the new bills. Now, in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with a buyout offer. It may be that a tenant was considering moving anyway and would appreciate the financial incentive to do so. But in recent years, it’s become commonplace to hear that tenants are approached in aggressive ways by goons working for the landlord and given lowball offers. The legislation would make it common knowledge if a landlord had a pattern of trying to harass people out this way.
Additionally, we believe the bill that would issue a stop work order at properties where inspectors are unable to gain access is an important one. When tenants have complaints about conditions at a building, because construction has created a hazard or nuisance, it is typical for inspectors to simply be denied access to the site. This is just outrageous, and having serious consequences for noncompliance should force owners into better behavior.
We commend the City Council for supporting tenants and hope Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t delay in signing all the bills.