The CONH pilot program will first focus on neighborhoods identified as vulnerable, including Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, and requires landlords to prove that they have not engaged in tenant harassment
On Thursday, City Council passed two bills to provide greater protection for NYC tenants from landlord harassment.
Councilmember Brad Lander sponsored Intro 0521 which creates a certificate of no harassment (CONH) pilot program requiring landlords to first obtain this certificate before carrying out repairs and renovations. Intro 1721-A, sponsored by Councilmember Jumaane Williams, expands the definition of harassment to include acts or omissions related to violations of the construction code. Together, the two bills aim to further safeguard tenants against predatory tenant harassment.
"Unfortunately, for some unscrupulous landlords in NYC, harassing tenants is part of the business plan. Once a tenant is driven out, a landlord can make significant renovations, or demolish and rebuild, and then dramatically raise rents," said Lander. "I believe it will make a real difference in the fight against tenant harassment."
The CONH pilot program will first focus on recently rezoned or soon-to-be-rezoned NYC neighborhoods and other neighborhoods identified as vulnerable, including Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Under the new law, building owners seeking to demolish or make significant alterations to buildings in these targeted areas will have to prove that they have not engaged in harassment before they can receive the permits from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB).
Once a building owner applies for a no harassment certification, building tenants, community groups, the community board and elected officials will be notified. HPD (with assistance, in some instances, from a designated community organization) will interview current and former tenants and conduct an investigation as to whether or not there is evidence of harassment within the previous five years.
If a landlord is found to have harassed tenants, the case will move to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). If an OATH judge determines that there's been harassment, then the building owner will not be able to pull those permits for five years — unless he makes a substantial portion of their building affordable to low-income families, with no public subsidy.
The effort to protect tenants from landlord harassment is further supported by Councilmember Williams' s bill, Intro 1721-A. The bill expands the definition of harassment to include acts or omissions related to violations of the construction code to ensure the proper maintenance and provision of habitable and safe housing conditions for tenants.
"Tenant harassment can take on many forms. Unscrupulous landlords are constantly devising new methods of abusing their power over tenants, and our laws need to keep up with their actions," said Williams. "This bill will help prevent these landlords from using construction projects in an attempt to force tenants from their homes, and from lying about the that construction or about the safety of a unit."