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Debt & Equity

Tenant buy-out offers could be labelled harassment under new law

The New York City Council has pushed forward a bill that aims to prevent landlords from repeatedly offering buy-outs to tenants.

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The bill aims to prevent landlords from offering cash to tenants to move.

The proposal, Int. 757, amends the administrative code of the City of New York, redefining repeated buy-out offers as harassment.

The bill essentially puts buy-out offers in the same category as removing doors to occupied units and “repeated acts of omission,” such as cutting power and water supply to apartments.

In a list of prohibited acts for landlords under the city administrative code, the proposal adds a new subparagraph that reads, “initiate or continue contact with a tenant, or any member of such tenant’s family or household regarding the payment of money or other valuable consideration to induce such tenant to relocate from his or her dwelling unit, after such tenant has notified the owner or his or her agent, verbally or in writing, that such tenant does not wish to be communicated with regarding the subject.”

The bill follows a similar proposal filed last February.

The earlier bill, which was filed by council member Jumaane Williams, aimed to prohibit landlords or their representatives from offering buy-outs before “notifying the tenant that he or she has the right to refuse” and “disclosing that the person making the buyout offer is an agent of the tenant’s landlord.”

The new proposal, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, has been referred to the Committee on Housing and Buildings, essentially putting it on a long journey towards a possible vote.

MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO

If passed, it would limit the options of landlords for persuading tenants in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments to move.

The bill comes less than a year after the City Council passed a law that doubled the maximum fine for harassing tenants. Landlords can now be fined $10,000 instead of the previous limit of $5,000. The fine for repeat offenders also doubled, from $1,000 to $2,000.

The law also had a provision that required the listing of erring landlords on the website of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

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