Memorandum of Opposition to Intro 1721

INTRO NO: 1721

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to amending the definition of harassment

Summary: Amends the definition of harassment to include acts or omissions relating to violations of the construction code

SPONSORS: Williams, Lander, Menchaca, Rosenthal

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), representing over 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City recognizes the importance of maintaining a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment, but is concerned that Intro No. 1721’s bill language is vague and captures behavior that does not give rise to harassment. 

Intro No. 1721 penalizes owners for repeated interruptions of services. This provision allows tenants to bring suit for any type of service interruption, including common interruptions necessary for regular maintenance and inspections on fire alarms or boiler equipment, for instance. Furthermore, current law already limits the implication of harassment to interruptions of essential services which pose the greatest threat to a tenant’s quiet enjoyment[1].

The provision classifying the act of providing false or misleading information as harassment is overly broad. For example, the bill could apply to owners who communicate when a utility has scheduled for gas service to be restored to a unit. These owners would be penalized if the appointment was later cancelled or rescheduled by the utility without notice to the owner. There needs to be greater clarity with regard to what is meant by providing false or misleading information–and more importantly, whether that information is material to the tenant’s quiet enjoyment.

There is a multitude of laws on the books that protect tenants from harassment and which can result in criminal, punitive and administrative consequences for owners. Most recently, the Council passed 18 additional anti-tenant harassment bills, one of which creates a presumption of guilt against the landlord for any acts or omissions that may cause a person to vacate or surrender his or her legal right to the dwelling. In its hearing testimony, HPD acknowledged that most owners respect the rights of their tenants and uphold their standards.[2] Correspondingly, REBNY urges the Council to analyze how widespread the issue of tenant harassment is and whether the recently enacted bills will reduce instances of tenant harassment once they take full effect.

 

For these abovementioned reasons, REBNY OPPOSES Int. No. 1721.

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[1] See section 27-2004, paragraph 48 (b) of the New York Administrative Code.

[2] Hearing Testimony of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Committee on Housing and Buildings.

  NYC Council. Delivered April 19, 2017.