Stronger tenant protections
by Emily Gallagher
Sep 05, 2017 | 3360 views | 0 0 comments | 89 89 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, I was extremely proud to watch the package of bills called the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

This is something that friends of mine at nonprofit groups St. Nicks Alliance and Cooper Square Committee have been organizing around for over three years, and comes from knowledge of community organizing for many years previous to that.

It is a testament to the good that dedication and hard work can achieve, and that nothing worth fighting for happens quickly.

The STS bills were done in a creative way, with different council members backing different elements of the legislation.

They resolve some of the enforcement gaps that tenant organizers have witnessed time and again, and resolve the real complaints that have identified a playbook for tenant displacement in stabilized buildings.

Addressing these gaps is vital, because it means that when a tenant has the courage to report their concern, there is a greater likelihood that the concerns will be dealt with in an efficient and meaningful way.

Often, lags in the Department of Buildings in terms of first checking on a complaint and then subsequently enforcing it would lead to dangerous conditions.

Issues also arose from the gaps between different agencies and who was responsible for what, which would result in no solution for something that was obviously an inhabitability problem, or alternately, a tenant harassment problem.

Another major problem these bills address is the fact that many landlords who commit tenant harassment do it as a matter of business in multiple buildings to multiple people.

Construction harassment, where the landlord brings in unscrupulous contractors to do work around an inhabited apartment with the unofficial goal of forcing that tenant to leave and give up their rent-stabilized apartment, is one of the most common forms.

Now, if landlords are caught committing these acts they will be penalized for a longer time period and it will stain their record. This is very important to prevent this kind of harassment.

In addition to posting the Department of Buildings permits and the tenant protection plan, landlords must post a “Safe Construction Bill of Rights” at least 14 days prior to the start of construction work.

This Bill of Rights should provide tenants with information that is easy to read about what is happening in their building and must be posted on every floor.

Included in that bill of rights, the landlord must list in simple English, Spanish, and other languages as determined by the Department of Buildings a description of the work being performed and its potential impact on tenants; hours of construction; timeline for the completion of the work; what services offered to the tenants might be affected (e.g. loss of hot water) and mitigation measurements the landlord is using to protect the tenants; who to contact at the landlord’s office if there is a problem; and who to call to complain to in the city if the tenant is concerned about the work being performed.

Hopefully, we will see these bills enforced, leading to greater safety and security for all tenants in New York.

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