New York City Council has passed a package of laws to protect tenants in rent-regulated housing units from harassment and coercion by landlords offering “buyout” deals.
Intro 129-A increases civil penalties assessed to property owners found guilty of tenant harassment.
Penalties will increase from the current range of $1,000 – $5,000, to instead between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars.
HPD will also post on its website each instance where a court found an owner had harassed a tenant. This information on the website will stretch back over the last year and into the future. And now tenants will be able to discover easily if an owner of a building has a history of harassment.
Introduction 757-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would also amend the Housing Maintenance Code’s definition of “harassment” to make it unlawful for an owner to contact a tenant about a buyout offer within 180 days after such tenant has notified the owner or his or her agent, in writing, that such tenant does not wish to be communicated with about buyouts.
Introduction 682-A, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick amends the Housing Maintenance Code’s definition of “harassment” to make it unlawful for a dwelling owner to, in connection with a buyout offer, (1) threaten, intimidate, or use profane or obscene language, (2) contact tenants at such odd hours or with such frequency as to reasonably be expected to abuse or harass, (3) contact tenants at their place of employment without prior written consent, or (4) knowingly falsify or misrepresent information provided to the tenant.
“People with a specialty in relocating tenants need to abide by a specific code of conduct, and that can’t include harassment,” said Council Member Garodnick. “We are taking steps today to tighten the rules, and to ensure fairness for tenants.”
Finally, Introduction 700-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would ensure that tenants are aware of their rights in connection with buyout offers, by making it unlawful for a tenant to be contacted regarding a buyout offer without being notified of each of the following in writing: (1) the purpose for the contact; (2) that they may refuse any offer made and may continue to occupy their dwelling unit; (3) that they may seek the guidance of an attorney regarding any offer made; (4) that such contact is made by or on behalf of the owner; and (5) that they may refuse any further contact regarding a buyout offer for a period of 180 days, unless such contact is authorized by the court or if notified in writing by such tenant of an interest in receiving such communications.
“Our city cannot stand by while tenants are being harassed out of their homes,” said Williams.
“Tenants don’t deserve to be intimidated out of their homes, and should be informed of their rights to refuse buyout offers.”