City Council passes tenant harassment legislation

Measures come in wake of complaints from renters across the city
August 14, 2015 11:05AM

The New York City Council passed legislation that is expected to sharply curtail the practice of landlords using “tenant relocation specialists” to push tenants out of their rent-stabilized apartments.

The bill, sponsored by Council members Jumaane Williams and Dan Garodnick, amends the city Housing Maintenance Code’s definition of tenant harassment, making it unlawful for landlords or hired “tenant relocation specialists” to make tenant buyout offers without notifying residents of their right to refuse the offer.

The changes also require hired tenant relocation specialists, who generally receive a fee for each successful vacancy, to disclose that they are acting on behalf of the landlord. The measures come in wake of complaints from tenants, many of whom are rent regulated, that such buyouts amount to harassment.

“There are too many unscrupulous owners of rent stabilized buildings who will do anything to have a tenant vacate their apartment, including hiring a tenant relocator to get the job done,” Williams said in the statement, adding that tenants “don’t deserve to be intimidated out of their homes.”

Other elements of the City Council package include a measure, sponsored by council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, that would define repeat buyout offers, made after a tenant has asked for them to stop, as harassment.

Another measure, sponsored by Garodnick and Williams, would create a “licensing scheme” for tenant relocation specialists, who would need to pass an exam before becoming licensed for the job.

Garodnick recently helped secure funding for Stabilizing NYC, a tenant advocacy group that is running a “bad landlords” watch list in the city. — Rey Mashayekhi