The rates of reported cases initiated by tenants concerning landlord harassment and violations have spiked in recent years. In response to this issue, the New York City Council has passed a legislative package comprising 17 bills that will strengthen protections for tenants and crack down on owners who've been gaming the system.
The bill package tightens up reporting requirements for landlords of rent-stabilized properties in an effort to increase transparency in dealings. For example, one bill mandates landlords to release prospective tenant rent information that dates back to four years. Currently, tenants are able to access this information from the state housing regulator on their own accord.
A measure obligates owners to submit buyout agreement details to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) so that “exploitative” offers are detected and curbed. This has been enforced because residents have been unaware of their legal rent authorized by the state, and as a result have been prone to overpaying landlords hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. Since this data will be in HPD's authority, the city could investigate and identify landlords who routinely use this practice.
Owners who accumulate an excessive amount of building code violations may also lose their building permit under the new stipulations. Owners of buildings with 35 units or fewer would lose their permit once they rack up an average of three open violations, while owners with more than 35 units would get their permits rejected if there is an average of two open violations.
Another measure explicitly targets professional designers. If they are discovered to have exaggerated or fabricated information on applications for construction, sanctions will be imposed. One bill calls for penalties of $10,000 for the first offense and a minimum of $25,000 for each subsequent false applications.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said it was important that these bills are enacted into law due to the extent of the situation.
“This legislation seeks to prevent tenant displacement by giving them valuable tools to stay in their communities,” Johnson said in a statement. “It penalizes abusive landlords and all of those who harass tenants and try to force them out of their homes.”
The bills have been applauded by tenants and landlords are adjusting to the changes.
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