The City Council passed a legislative package Wednesday aimed at providing New York City tenants with more protections and cracking down on owners who try to cheat the system.
The 17 bills that were approved during the Council’s stated meeting included a mandate to landlords to obtain and release to a prospective tenant rent information as far back as four years. The requirement means owners must submit buyout agreement details to the city, and will bring a halt to permits for owners who rack up building code violations.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said it was crucial that these bills become law, due to the numerous cases of landlord harassment and violations that have taken place in recent years.
“This legislative package seeks to prevent tenant displacement by giving them valuable tools to stay in their homes and in their communities. It penalizes abusive landlords and all of those who harass tenants and try to force them out of their homes," Johnson said in a statement.
City Councilman Mark Levine said his bill, which requires landlords of multiple units to share their rent history, to be obtained from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal, would allow tenants to determine if any large jump in rent is justified .
"For too long, residents have been unaware of their legal rent as prescribed by the state, overpaying landlords hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year,” he said in a statement.
Levine also introduced a bill that would require landlords to submit details of any tenant buyout agreements they make to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The councilman said such agreements have been used to force rent-regulated tenants out of their apartments so that the owners use the legal loopholes in the state housing law to raise the rent and deregulate the unit.
With the data in HPD’s hands, the city could do further analysis and identify any landlords who consistently use this practice, according to Levine.
Some of the bills in the package focused on illegal activities by landlords and owners, particularly rent-regulated units. Legislation introduced by Councilman Ritchie Torres would require the buildings department to use data from the Division of Housing & Community Renewal on rent regulated units and audit owners’ portfolios if they were caught making false statements.
Councilman Justin Brannan also introduced a bill that would prevent an owner of a building from getting a permit if there are open building code violations. For owners of a building with 35 units or fewer, the ban would go into effect if there were an average of three open violations, while owners of buildings with 35 or more units would have permits rejected if there were an average of two open violations.
"This bill changes that by forcing landlords to uphold quality of life for their tenants. If we have to push them to do the work they are obligated to do, we will," Brannan said in a statement.