Memo Regarding Intro No. 755 & 477

BILL: Intro No. 755 & 477 - In relation to evictions of disabled and elderly tenants

SUBJECT: In relation to evictions of disabled and elderly tenants

SPONSORS: Williams, Cumbo, Eugene, Gibson, Johnson, Palma, Rodriguez, Barron, Dromm, Chin, Constantinides, Dickens, Gentile, Koo, Levine, Mendez, Menchaca

The Real Estate Board of New York (“REBNY”), representing over 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City, opposes Introduction Nos. 755 & 477 because the legislation places property owners and landlords in an untenable position with regard to determining a tenant’s age and/or disabled status.

Intro No. 755 would require owners to provide written notification to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on or before the day on which they serve a notice of eviction upon a disabled tenant. HPD would then provide the occupant with a list of legal services for disabled tenants. Failure by the owner to provide this notification will constitute a class A misdemeanor. 

Intro No. 477 would require owners to provide written notification to HPD on or before the day on which they serve a notice of eviction upon a senior occupant (defined as 62 years of age or older) or the spouse of a senior occupant. Upon receiving this notice, HPD will then provide the occupants with a list of legal services for senior tenants. Failure by the owner to provide this notification will constitute a class A misdemeanor. 

These bills put owners in a precarious position with regard to the Federal Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination based on disabilities and age. “Disabled person” has a very broad definition under section 17-306 of the Administrative Code, encompassing mental, physiological, musculoskeletal, neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, and many other disorders which may not be outwardly visible. A tenant’s age can be equally difficult to visually determine, leaving owners with the predicament of deciding whether to directly ask tenants to verify their ages (or their spouse’s ages) or medical status, which raises clear discriminatory implications.

With regard to the proposed notification system and its repercussions, Intro. 755 goes so far as to require notification by owners to HPD if they so much as suspect an occupant may be disabled, which could result in accusations of harassment of the owner is mistaken. Conversely, should owners evict a disabled tenant and opt not to notify HPD because they did not have “reason to know” the tenant was disabled, the owner would receive a class A misdemeanor.

REBNY believes that a more reasonable approach to accomplishing the goals of this legislation would be to require property owners to provide the HPD contact information to all tenants upon whom a notice of eviction has been served so that they may acquire the department’s list of legal services if needed. Placing the onus on the owner to determine whether a tenant is a senior citizen or disabled, and punishing failure to do so with a class A misdemeanor, is both unreasonable and unfair.

For these reasons, we oppose Intros. 755 and 477.