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Certificate of No Harassment Pilot Program

The City Council and Mayor De Blasio reached a deal on legislation in order to create greater protections for tenants who are seen as being harassed by their landlords trying to get them to move out, renovate, and charge much higher rents. The bill creates a pilot program with the purpose of providing “for the implementation of such a program as a geographically targeted and time-limited pilot program to allow an evaluation of the program’s accuracy and efficacy in targeting and addressing harassment in particular buildings.”

Local Law 1 2018, which took effect September 28, 2018, establishes a three-year pilot program which requires owners of certain buildings to obtain a Certification of No Harassment (CONH) prior to acquiring permits from the Department of Buildings (DOB) for work involving demolition, change of use/occupancy, change in the number of dwelling units, or an application for a new or amended certificate of occupancy. Buildings with certain criteria in specific targeted areas of the City will be placed on a building list.

The Department selects potential buildings in “distress” within specified community districts using scores on a “building qualification index” indicating significant distress. The index evaluates buildings for distress based on the department’s records of open and closed hazardous (“Class B”) and immediately hazardous (“Class C”) violations of the housing maintenance code, records of paid and unpaid liens for expenses incurred by the department for repair or elimination of dangerous conditions under the emergency repair program, change of ownership, or any other factor that indicates distress. Also included on the list will be buildings that are the subject of a full vacate order, have been active participants in the alternative enforcement program for more than four months since February 1, 2016, and buildings in which there has been a finding of harassment within the last five years by a court or by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Property owners of buildings on the list will be required to receive a CONH from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) before the DOB can approve new construction applications for an initial or reinstated permit to perform certain covered categories of work.

Under the law, owners of buildings on the list who want to demolish or make alternations to their buildings within the identified areas, will have to prove that they haven’t harassed tenants before they can get permits from the DOB. When an owner of a building on the list first applies for the CONH, HPD will interview current and former tenants to see if there’s been any harassment over the past five years. If HPD determines there’s been harassment, the case will move to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). If an OATH judge determines that there’s been harassment, then the owner will be denied building permits for five years unless they make specific guarantees for affordable housing (at least 25 percent of the units).

The owner of a building on the list will need to provide the DOB with: (1) A sworn affidavit by or on behalf of all the owners of such building that has been provided to HPD, which states that there will be no harassment of the lawful occupants of such building by or on behalf of such owners during the construction period; (2) a tenant protection plan; and (3) A Certification of No Harassment from HPD that there has been no harassment of the lawful occupants of such building, within the 60 month period prior to submission of an application for such certification, or a waiver of such certification. The commissioner of the DOB is also empowered to issue a stop-work notice or order with respect to an alteration or demolition permit or to rescind approval of construction documents at the request of the commissioner of HPD.

This publication is issued by Simon Meyrowitz & Meyrowitz, P.C. for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship. To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that unless specifically indicated otherwise, any tax advice contained in this publication was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any tax-related matter addressed herein. In some jurisdictions, this publication may be considered attorney advertising.

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