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Tenant harassment program requires certification before construction permits

When a building owner on the list applies for a Certification of No Harassment, an investigation by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will be triggered.

A New York City program seeks to discourage

A New York City program seeks to discourage tenant harassment by requiring certification before Department of Buildings construction permits are issued. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

City officials have launched a new program aimed at reining in tenant harassment across the five boroughs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced details of the Certification of No Harassment pilot program on Friday, vowing to stop tenant harassment “in its tracks.”

Under the 36-month-long program, building owners seeking construction permits from the Department of Buildings will first have to prove they’re not trying to strong-arm their tenants into permanently leaving.

“We are taking a proactive approach to enforcement and targeting at-risk buildings for increased scrutiny in order to protect affordability across the city,” de Blasio said on Friday.

More than 1,000 buildings — 26,000 units total — were identified as at-risk based on the city’s criteria and will now be subject to the certification program.

When a building owner on the list applies for a Certification of No Harassment, an investigation by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will be triggered. HPD investigators will talk to tenants, community groups, the community board and local officials in an effort to find out if any tenant harassment has been alleged at the building within the last five years, per the mayor’s office.

If HPD believes that tenant harassment may have taken place, the building owner will face a hearing and could be denied DOB permits for significant changes to the structure for up to five years unless they agree to including permanent affordable housing without the benefit of tax breaks, subsidies or inclusionary housing.

“In the midst of an affordability crisis, tenants in New York have enough to deal with without worrying about harassment from unscrupulous landlords,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

The pilot program was made possible through City Council legislation passed in 2017. Under the law, any building that meets one of the following criteria will be placed in the program:

  • If the building is enrolled in the Alternative Enforcement Program, which is aimed at the 200 most rundown buildings in the city, for over four months or if DOB has issued a full vacate order.
  • If a court or the state Homes and Community Renewal program has determined tenant harassment has taken place in the last five years. In this case, the building will also automatically be denied a Certification of No Harassment.
  • If the building is in physical distress and is located within 11 community boards that the city has deemed most at-risk of tenant harassment, including recently rezoned neighborhoods, such as the Hudson Yards District and the Special Clinton District

If HPD finds no evidence of tenant harassment, a building owner will be issued the certification and can move forward with obtaining DOB construction permits.

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