Stand For Tenant Safety: The Specifics
BY PAUL SCHINDLER | The following 12 bills, currently before the City Council, are aimed at improving oversight of building construction and renovation by landlords to prevent them from using that to harass tenants out of their homes. The measures, first introduced in 2015, are sponsored by 11 councilmembers and supported by Stand for Tenant Safety (standfortenantsafety.com), a citywide coalition of community organizations.
Intro. 918, sponsored by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Margaret Chin and Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca: Requires Department of Building (DOB) inspection, rather than developer self-certification, for proposed construction where more than 10 percent of units are occupied and for buildings owned by a person who has been found guilty of tenant harassment.
Intro. 924, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Rafael Espinal: Requires DOB to issue orders to correct simultaneously with orders to vacate where safety conditions warrant, so that landlords don’t use unsafe conditions as a pretext to drive tenants out.
Intro. 926, sponsored by East Side Councilmember Dan Garodnick: Establishes a three-year interagency task force among the DOB, Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Environmental Protection to coordinate a citywide policy toward tenant issues arising from residential rehabilitation and renovation construction work.
Intro. 930 and Intro. 931, sponsored by East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos: Expands the category of buildings where landlord Environmental Control Board fines can be subject to a lien on which the city can move toward foreclosure in the event that fines are not paid, and including apartment buildings with 20 or more units where those fines have hit $60,000 or more.
Intro. 934, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Stephen Levin: Creates a Real Time Enforcement unit to conduct inspections of work being done without a permit within two hours of a complaint, carry out periodic and ongoing inspections of permitted work that alters more than 10 percent of an existing building or creates an addition, and publish online annual statistics on DOB’s performance in accomplishing these goals.
Intro. 936, sponsored by West Side Councilmember Mark Levine: Strengthens the requirements for landlords filing a tenant protection plan as part of the DOB permitting process and makes those plans available online at DOB.
Intro. 938, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso: Creates a watch list for contractors who have performed work without a required permit within the preceding two years and increase inspection requirements for sites where they are working.
Intro. 939, also sponsored by Reynoso: Increases the penalty for doing work without a permit in one- or two-family dwellings to eight times (previously four times) the amount of the permit fee, with a $1,000 minimum (up from $500). For larger buildings, it increases the penalties to 28 times the permit fee (up from 14 times), with a $10,000 minimum (up from $5,000).
Intro. 940, also sponsored by Reynoso: 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 each subsequent violation.
Intro. 944, sponsored by West Side Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Corey Johnson: Requires on-site building permits, also available online at the DOB website, to identify the occupancy status of a building undergoing construction to prevent landlords from falsely claiming the structure is empty in order to expedite the permitting process, and penalizes those who provide such false information.
Intro. 960, sponsored by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Rosie Mendez: Requires landlords to post a “Safe Construction Bill of Rights” at least 14 days prior to the start of construction work, in addition to the required tenant protection plan.