City council expands non-harassment certificate program

From left to right: Brad Lander, New York City Council Member and Jay Martin, Executive Director, Community Housing Improvement Program (Getty Images, iStock)

For another five years, some building owners will have to prove that their tenants weren’t harassed before renovating or demolishing their properties.

City council voted on Thursday to expand a pilot program that requires some residential property owners to obtain a Non-Harassment Certificate (CONH) from the city in order to move forward with apartment modifications and others. types of construction work.

Originally approved in 2018, the pilot was due to expire this month. The council vote extended the program until September 27, 2026 and expanded it to include buildings in distress throughout the city.

Since the launch of the pilot, the state’s rent stabilization law has undergone significant changes, including reforms to remove incentives for landlords to kick tenants in order to free apartments from regulation. Jay Martin, executive director of the homeowners group’s community housing improvement program, noted that the rent law is already decreasing landlords’ ability to increase rents for stabilized apartments after major renovations to buildings and units.

“There is currently no business model in which this bill would prevent harassment of tenants,” he said. “I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s even necessary.”

He called the city’s method of determining whether a building is in distress an “amorphous vague measurement system” and expressed concern that given the city’s limited ability to examine buildings subject to such distress. requirements, it would be up to tenant advocates to determine if there has been harassment. .

At a hearing in September, the city’s housing preservation and development department acknowledged that “more data is needed to fully assess the overall effectiveness of the pilot and to ensure that it is structured to so as to meet its objective ”. The agency, however, recommended an extension of the pilot project by at least two years, citing changes to the rent law and the likely role of the pandemic in delaying building maintenance.

Prior to the launch of the pilot project, only single-bedroom buildings and those located in special-use zoning districts were subject to harassment-free certificate requirements. The pilot applied the requirements to buildings in distress in 11 city neighborhoods, as well as properties where a court or the state housing regulator had ruled that the harassment had occurred within the five recent years and buildings that have participated in a program for properties with numerous maintenance code violations. for more than four months.

The bill approved Thursday extends the CONH program to buildings where a court has appointed a 7A administrator to collect rents and provide tenant services – a program designed for buildings with “conditions dangerous to life, health and safety. tenant safety ”. The latest version of the measure, however, excludes language that would have put buildings on the city’s speculative watchlist, as well as buildings where any aspect of a tenant protection plan has been violated.

Buildings subject to the CONH program are placed on a public list for five years. As of August, more than 1,000 properties were on the list. Real estate professionals have argued that being on the list scares lenders and could result in vacant apartments as owners wait for the opportunity to move forward with maintenance work.

Under the Extension Bill, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, properties that are denied a no-harassment certificate are not only banned from performing construction work, but must also pay 5,000. $ per apartment to harassed tenants.

“This new aspect of the program would force landlords to think more about the risks of tenant harassment and affect their risk assessment when launching harassment campaigns,” said Rachel Nager, lawyer at Communities Resist, member of a coalition of tenant defense who pushed for the extension of the pilot.

On Thursday, city council also voted in favor of a measure to tackle theft of deed. The bill requires the Department of Finance to notify homeowners if a deed or document related to the mortgage has been filed for their property. The notification will also include information for owners on what action to take if the documents are fraudulent.

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Gloria Turner

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