Legislative Memorandum Re: Tenant Safety

INTRODUCTION

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), representing more than 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City, applauds the Council’s efforts to address tenant safety issues during periods of building construction. REBNY’s residential manager and owner members strive to minimize disruptions to their tenants. However, they also recognize that other residential owners may not be as vigilant in promoting tenant safety and ensuring non-hazardous living conditions which give rise to these bills. It is critical that a careful balance is struck between ensuring that owners and managers are able to protect their tenants’ safety while not creating financial hardships for these same owners. In some instances, those financial hardships imposed on the owner could, in turn, jeopardize already scarce affordable housing units.

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INTRO NO: 924-A

SUBJECT: Vacate Orders

SUMMARY: Requires written vacate orders to include a condition for which the vacate order, once issued, would need to be corrected within an explicitly stated timeframe by the owner.

SPONSORS: Espinal, Jr., Chin, Johnson, Kallos, Levin, Levine, Menchaca, Reynoso, Rosenthal, Mendez, Constantinides, Rose, Lander, Lancman, Rodriguez, Van Bramer, Richards, Cumbo

REBNY OPPOSES INTRO No. 924-A because vacate orders can result from external issues outside of an owner’s control. Repairs occurring in adjacent buildings or from gas main lines in the street, for example, are not circumstances owners neither can nor should be expected to control, especially not within a specified timeframe. REBNY recommends that the Council amend this bill to recognize that unexpected challenges or issues may delay repairs further, beyond a stated timeframe, and that owners should only be liable for repairs they themselves can control.

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INTRO NO: 930

SUBJECT: Distressed Buildings Subject to Foreclosure by Action in Rem

SUMMARY: Allows the City, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), to foreclose and sell distressed buildings with outstanding ECB violations in class 1 or 2 buildings. This bill would be applicable to:

1. Buildings owing 30% of the value or more;

2. Buildings owing 15% of the value or more if the property has an average of five or more hazardous or immediately hazardous violations, or if the property has any outstanding liens for the elimination of any dangerous or unlawful conditions equal to or greater than $1000.

SPONSORS: Kallos, Chin, Johnson, Levin, Levine, Menchaca, Mendez, Reynoso, Rosenthal, Rose, Lander, Rodriguez, Richards, Gibson, Van Bramer, Crowley, Cohen, Cumbo

REBNY TAKES NO POSITION ON INTRO No. 930. Notwithstanding REBNY’s position, REBNY understands the good intentions of the bill to ensure that penalties are paid and that delinquent owners are held accountable, but REBNY would like to point out that foreclosure on such buildings might not lead to the best results. Housing advocates point out foreclosing on distressed buildings could possibly lead to irreversible losses of affordable housing.[1]

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INTRO NO: 934

SUBJECT: Creation of a Real Time Enforcement Unit in the Department of Buildings (DoB)

SUMMARY: Creates an enforcement unit within the Department of Buildings to oversee the enforcement of construction codes within multiple dwellings and to respond to complaints within hours of receiving them. The unit would be responsible for monitoring sites and issuing NOVs or stop work orders.

SPONSORS: Levin, Reynoso, Chin, Espinal, Jr., Johnson, Kallos, Levine, Menchaca, Rosenthal, Gentile, Koo, Lander, Lancman, Rodriguez, Van Bramer, Rose, Richards, Mendez, Cumbo, Cohen, Crowley, Williams, Grodenchik, Cabrera , Dromm ,  Vacca, Koslowitz, Garodnick, Maisel, Cornegy, Jr., Vallone, King, Mealy, Miller, Gibson, Ulrich

REBNY TAKES NO POSITION ON INTRO No. 934. While REBNY supports greater oversight of construction practices in the City that promote greater safety, we question DoB’s ability to implement such a program without additional resources.

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INTRO NO: 939-A

SUBJECT: Increasing the Penalties for Work without a Permit

SUMMARY: Increases the penalties for work performed without a permit.  For one to two family homes, the minimum for such a violation would be increased from $500 to $1,000, up to $50,000. For all other buildings, the minimum fine would be increased from $5,000 to $10,000 up to $75,000.

SPONSORS: Reynoso, Chin, Espinal, Jr., Johnson, Kallos, Levin, Levine, Menchaca, Mendez, Rosenthal, Gentile, King, Koslowitz, Rose, Lander, Rodriguez, Garodnick, Miller, Richards, Van Bramer

REBNY TAKES NO POSITION ON INTRO No. 939-A.

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INTRO NO: 940-A

SUBJECT: Increasing the Penalties for a Violation of a Stop Work Order

SUMMARY: Increases the penalties for a violation of a stop work order from $5,000 to $10,000 for the first violation, and from $10,000 to $20,000 for any subsequent violation.

SPONSORS: Reynoso, Chin, Espinal, Jr., Johnson, Kallos, Levin, Levine, Menchaca, Mendez, Rosenthal, Gentile, Koslowitz, Rose, Lander, Lancman, Rodriguez, Garodnick, Miller, Richards, Van Bramer

REBNY TAKES NO POSITION ON INTRO No. 940-A.

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INTRO NO: 944-A

SUBJECT: Construction Work Permits

SUMMARY: Prohibits the submission of any construction related documentation following the discovery of work performed without a permit for one year or until the building changes owners, whichever is sooner. Requires DoB to post whether a building will be occupied during construction work and whether a new Certificate or Occupancy (CO) will be required following the completion of work. A permit identifying whether a dwelling unit will be occupied during construction work and also indicating the number of units occupied during the permit application must be posted. Lastly, tenant protection plans must be posted in a public area during construction.

SPONSORS: Rosenthal, Johnson, Chin, Kallos, Levin, Levine, Menchaca, Mendez, Reynoso, Lander, Van Bramer, Rose, Richards, Gentile, Rodriguez, Cumbo

REBNY OPPOSES INTRO No. 944-A.    While this legislation could greatly improve communication between owners planning construction work and their tenants, it fails to specifically identify whose responsibility many of these provisions would apply to. For example, owners who hire contractors or qualified professionals may not be directly involved with the permit application process, and may therefore be unable to procure the documentation required to fulfill the requirements of this bill. REBNY recommends the Council further specify language regarding who should be penalized in order to more effectively target parties responsible for violations.

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[1] Silver-Greenberg, Jessica and Kim Barker. New York City Sells Landlords’ Debts, but Buildings Fall into Limbo, Critics Say.  The New York Times. October 6, 2016. Web. Retrieved April 18, 2017 <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/nyregion/new-york-city-sells-landlords-debts-but-buildings-fall-into-limbo-critics-say.html>