Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kid to Riverside Tenants: No Garage Related Rent Hike

Brooklyn Heights Blog
December 17th, 2008

New York State Senator-elect Daniel Squadron has written tenants of the Riverside Apartments assuring them that they will not be subject to garage construction related rent increases. Squadron spoke to the building’s landlord, the Pinnacle Group, who claim that they will not seek an MCI increase for the construction of its proposed garage.
The content of the letter after the jump.

To the residents of Riverside Apartments

Dear Neighbors:

I want to share a quick update with you about my ongoing conversations with the owner of your building.

Riverside tenants have expressed a few concerns to me: that the proposed garage construction will disrupt life in the building, that it could permanently make the courtyard impossible to enjoy, and above all that the building owner might use the garage construction to seek a Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increase for rent-regulated tenants.

I want to let you know that I have personally received an assurance from the landlord’s representative that the landlord will not seek an MCI increase for the work he proposes to do to install a garage. Additionally, the landlord is not allowed to use any garage work as a pretext for evicting any tenants.

This news is an important development and I wanted to share it with you as soon as possible. Of course, it is only the beginning of a longer process. As I expressed previously to tenants in the building, I have serious concerns about the proposed garage, its impact on the quality of life for residents of the building, and the precedent it would set for the Heights Historic District. I look forward to continuing to work with the tenants of the building.
Please feel free to call my office any time with concerns about this or any other issue. I can
be reached at 646-472-5712 or

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Role of Private Equity Worries Tenant Advocates


July 10, 2008

“The prices being paid for Bronx apartment buildings are out of step with the buildings’ actual profitability.”- Greg Jost University Neighborhood Housing Program


Ed. note: This article has been corrected. In the original version we erroneously reported that the Pinnacle Group had purchased 10 Bronx buildings in 2008. The buildings were purchased by several limited liability corporations (LLCs) through Chestnut Holdings. The Norwood News regrets the error.

In 2005, when the Pinnacle Group first roused the ire of tenants for aggressive tactics in housing court, landlords funded by unregulated capital were an anomaly. More common were the likes of Nicholas Haros and Frank Palazzolo, owners reviled for their determination to squeeze rental income from deteriorating buildings.

Pinnacle is backed by the Praedium Group, which is in turn controlled by the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, one of the top 10 real estate pension fund managers in the world. No longer just the province of local landlords, rent regulated Bronx real estate has whetted the appetite of international finance.

Pinnacle has been joined in the northwest Bronx by Ocelot, backed by the Israeli-owned Eldan Tech Ltd.; SG2, backed by Blackrock, of which Merrill Lynch owns 50 percent; Urban American Management, created by the Ramius Capital Group; and Normandy Investment Partners, which is funded primarily by international investment and corporate and state pensions. These firms have purchased portfolios of properties from New York-based landlords such as Nicholas Haros, the Palazzolo Investment Group, Jacob Selechnik and the Bodak family. The University Neighborhood Housing Program estimates that over 14,000 apartment units in the Bronx are owned by private-equity-backed landlords.

The management style of these firms – including level of commitment to repairs and aggressiveness in housing court – varies. But they share the basic perspective that rents in regulated buildings can be increased significantly through “value enhancement” and “aggressive management” – catchphrases that reflect a strategy of capitalizing on vacancies to increase rents and carrying out Major Capital Improvements.

From the landlords’ perspective, gentrifying neighborhoods, where regulated rents are far below market, are the most fertile grounds for this strategy. In Urban American’s Sunnyside, Queens properties, for example, new renters are paying upwards of $1600 for two bedrooms, most of which underwent improvements or repairs during vacancy. Some apartments have even surpassed the $2000 rent deregulation mark.

Gentrification on Kingsbridge?
But gentrification feels a long way off from 131 W. Kingsbridge Rd. According to city public records, this building was purchased by SG2 for just over $100,000 per apartment in February 2007. There are 384 violations in this 31 unit building, 239 of them documented since May 2007.
Gladys Cardona has lived at 131 W. Kingsbridge Rd. for 10 years. When her bathroom ceiling fell, exposing wooden slats and pipes from the apartment above, SG2 didn’t respond to her phone calls. Only when HPD threatened to deploy its emergency repair unit did the landlord order the ceiling patched, she said.

“I’m tired of this,” said Gladys, who is 60 and still battles vermin infestation and lack of hot water. “But the costs of moving are very high.”

Miguel Jimenez, Gladys’ neighbor, shares her concerns. He says he called SG2’s Walton Avenue office four times last month about the hole in his bedroom ceiling and didn’t receive a call back. Finally he visited the office in person and secured a commitment from manager Evelyn DeJesus to address the problem. Jimenez never heard from her again and DeJesus did not return two voicemail messages or an e-mail from the Norwood News.

Jimenez’s rent is $922, but Section 8 pays the majority. Like Cardona, he would like to move, but cites fees for credit checks, moving costs and security deposits as expenses he can’t afford. For now, the two are staying where they are, hoping that organizing assistance from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition will help to force repairs.
Cardona and Jimenez are not alone. Their neighborhood, Kingsbridge Heights, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest borough in the City. According to the Furman Center, 59 percent of households in this community district make less than $35,752 a year; 31 percent make less than $16,556. Though rents here are low by city standards, the median proportion of income tenants pay for rent – stands at 37.8 percent. Thirty percent is considered acceptable by HUD.

Further east, at the SG2-owned 750-760 Pelham Parkway South, tenant association president Ray Ruiz lists broken front door locks, malfunctioning boilers and rent overcharges as persistent problems. This building has nearly 140 units and 768 housing maintenance code violations, 687 documented in the past year alone. “We thought Michael Goldberg [the previous landlord] was bad, but at least they answered the phone,” says Ruiz, who has lived in his apartment since 1997. “SG2 people just have voicemail that they never check.”
Some improvements

In some SG2 buildings, however, tenants have seen improvement. Charles Long, a fire safety inspector and 10-year resident of 1212 Grand Concourse, joined with members of Community Action for Safer Apartments (CASA) to meet with SG2 manager John Sutherland. Long was mostly pleased – management responded quickly to concerns about inadequate outdoor lighting and elevator breakage.

“In some ways SG2 is a saint compared to the previous landlord [Jacob Selechnik],” said Long. “But they’re in business, and they wouldn’t be curing these violations if they didn’t expect to get their capital improvement increases.”

Long counts on continued maintenance improvements and hopes that noise pollution and late-night partying will come under control as well. But he is ambivalent about what these changes will mean for the poorest tenants – those on public assistance and Section 8 – who he is certain will be pushed out. “I have never seen such an army of workers sent to renovate vacant apartments,” Long says.. He has not met any new tenants yet, but believes they will pay significantly more.

These observations have not escaped community groups and local leaders. Fernando Tirado, district manager for Community Board 7, held a meeting with SG2 managers in February 2008. “We wanted to meet with them because we were concerned about the number of properties they had purchased – 23 in our Community Board alone and 75 in the whole Bronx-- but we got a good response. They assured us that they were not there to push people out, that they were there to improve the properties and that this was an investment that they cared about.” Tirado reports that they have not heard complaints from tenants of SG2 buildings in recent months.

In 2005, the University Neighborhood Housing Program noted that purchase prices of Bronx buildings were increasing disproportionate to rental income, sometimes to as much as $67,000 per unit. UNHP worried that landlords’ inability to make mortgage payments on overleveraged properties would lead to another wave of disinvestment and property deterioration.
According to City records, in 2007, SG2 paid $6,632,467 for 1212 Grand Concourse -- $108,729 per apartment. There is little in the data, it seems, to justify SG2’s enthusiasm. According to the Rent Guidelines Board, Bronx landlords’ net operating income increased only 3% from 1990 to 2006, far less than the other boroughs.

And unlike poor renters in Washington Heights or Sunnyside, Bronx tenants live far from Starbucks and other markers of middle class desirability. It is unclear where – if tenants like Cardona and Jimenez were to leave -- their higher-paying successors would come from.

“The prices being paid for Bronx apartment buildings are out of step with the buildings’ actual profitability,” said Greg Jost of UNHP. “Landlords’ expenses are increasing faster than rent income, but these sales seem to assume that either the building can be flipped for a higher amount, or that rents can be driven way up, or both. But residents’ incomes here are among the lowest in the city and I don’t see any higher income folks moving to our area.”

Now batting: Pinnacle's baseball league

The Real Deal

It's baseball season and the Pinnacle Group, which has been investigated by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney for allegedly trying to remove rent-stabilized tenants, is pitching something it hopes will bring some good PR. It has sponsored the New York City Middle School Baseball League, a new spring league for 200 middle school students. Neighborhoods represented include Chinatown, Lower Manhattan and West Harlem. Teachers launched a similar league two years, but few students could afford the $30 uniforms. Now Pinnacle is paying for uniforms, gloves and equipment. CEO Joel Wiener has led Pinnacle's controversial effort to buy more than $1 billion in distressed buildings in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx over the past few years. TRD

Group Wields Racketeering Law Against Landlords to Combat Illegal Immigration

Published: June 22, 2008
PLAINFIELD, N.J. (AP) — A federal lawsuit challenging the right of landlords to rent to illegal immigrants has stoked tensions over immigration that have been rising for years here.
A group opposed to illegal immigration filed suit against a Plainfield property management company this month, seeking to set a legal precedent by using a federal law normally employed against racketeers to punish landlords who rent to illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit accuses the company, Connolly Properties, of allowing so many undocumented tenants to live in its buildings that it amounted to unlawful harboring and should be considered a criminal enterprise that encouraged illegal immigration.
The suit was brought by the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington — the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The institute previously supported ordinances in Hazelton, Pa., and Riverside, N.J., that tried to punish landlords who rented to illegal immigrants or businesses that hired them.
A judge overturned the Hazelton ordinance, ruling it unconstitutional, and Riverside rescinded its ordinance, with officials saying the town could not afford the legal costs of defending it.
Flor Gonzalez, head of the Latin American Coalition in Plainfield, worries that her city may become the latest battleground in the nationwide debate over immigration.
She says that tensions over the city’s large immigrant population have been rising, with a recent series of beatings and robberies of immigrants, raids by federal immigration officials and ticketing of day laborers by the police.
“This is the worst it’s been. There is a lot of unfriendliness and disrespect against immigrants, and a lot has been happening quietly,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “We need big help in this town.”
Plainfield’s mayor, Sharon M. Robinson-Briggs said that she was not familiar with the details of the lawsuit, but added that immigrants deserved respect, regardless of their status.
“All our residents deserve to be treated fairly and equitably, whether they are born here or not,” she said.
The lawsuit was filed against Connolly Properties on behalf of a former Connolly employee and two tenants who are American citizens. The tenants charge that they were steered into buildings occupied by illegal immigrants who were too afraid about their legal status to complain about decrepit conditions, according to Michael M. Hethmon, a lawyer for the Reform Law Institute.
Connolly Properties has several rental complexes in northern New Jersey and Allentown, Pa.
Ron Simoncini, a spokesman for Connolly, said executives were bewildered as to why the company had become the target of the suit, which was filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.
He added that he could not comment further before the company filed a response to the suit.
Mr. Hethmon said his group decided to take the case as part of its strategy of “attrition through enforcement,” or urging illegal immigrants to leave the country by making it more difficult for them to find employment and housing.
“We have felt for a long time that the racketeering statute would be useful in dealing with situations where businesses and commercial enterprises were heavily involved with illegal immigration,” Mr. Hethmon said.
“We’ve also felt that individual citizens, communities, neighborhoods and law-abiding small businesses have always needed tools with which they can defend themselves against the harmful effects of illegal immigration.”
Using anti-racketeering laws to prosecute landlords is a strategy that immigration experts say they expect to be tried in other parts of the nation.
“I think it’s a new tactic, because some of the other things haven’t worked,” said Donald W. Benson, a lawyer in the Atlanta office of the San Francisco labor law firm Littler Mendelson.
“Congress couldn’t reach a consensus to reform the immigration laws, states are trying to fill in the gaps and they’re having varied success, and local groups are trying to work through local ordinances, so it’s just one part of a much bigger picture of immigration struggles in the U.S.,” he said.
“I have no idea why they picked Plainfield,” said Christian Estevez, a member of the Plainfield school board who also sits on Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s panel on immigrant policy.
“This has caught us by surprise.”
Mr. Estevez said that he and other Plainfield residents were contacting national immigration advocacy groups for help.
According to the 2000 census, Plainfield, a city of some 50,000 people, is about 60 percent black, with the remainder roughly split between white and Hispanic.
In the past decade, Ms. Gonzalez said there had been a large influx of Hispanic immigrants, mostly from Central America.
The Plainfield City Council president, Harold Gibson, said he was unaware of the lawsuit, but that city officials had been trying to address concerns over immigration.
He cited the city’s efforts to find a solution to the day laborer situation that respected the laborers’ right to look for work while addressing community concerns.
“I think that the people in Plainfield, in terms of the City Council and the general population, they frown on illegal immigration, they don’t want undocumented persons living in the town, generally speaking,” he said.
“However, my position is that I don’t think we should set ourselves up as an immigration authority in terms of people who come from other countries and work hard to better themselves and help their families.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rent Destabilized

Gretchen Morgenson, assistant business and financial editor and columnist at The New York Times, and Ben Dulchin, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, discuss the impact of investment companies on New York’s rent stabilized housing stock. Then, Frank Ricci of the Rent Stabilization Association, representing landlords of rent-regulated buildings, and Rob McCreanor, director of legal services at the Immigrant Tenant Advocacy Project of the Catholic Migration Office in Sunnyside, Queens. Open Phones: Eric Gioia, Queens Councilmember (D-26), is holding hearings on this issue. Do you live in a building that’s recently been bought with venture capital, with landlords such as Vantage, Normandy Partners, The Dermot Company, Westbrook Partners or the Dawny Day Group? Talk to Councilman Gioia about your experience.
"As Investment Firms Buy Up Buildings, Tenants See Bullies" NYT, 5/9/2008

As Investment Firms Buy Up Buildings, Tenants See Bullies

New York Times

Published: May 9, 2008
Private investment firms have been amassing what may seem like unusual stakes in New York real estate: they have bought hundreds of apartment buildings with thousands of rent-regulated units across the city that produce decidedly meager returns.

Investors as Landlords

Times Topics: Rent Stabilization and Rent Control

As regulatory filings and promotional materials show, the companies expect to generate higher returns quickly by increasing rents after existing tenants vacate their units. Their success depends upon far higher vacancy rates than are typical in rent-regulated apartments in New York.Some residents and tenant advocates say that they began seeing what they consider a pattern of harassment of low-income tenants this year and suspect that it is a result of the new owners’ business models. Tenants have been sued repeatedly for unpaid rent that has already been received by the landlords; they have been sent false notices of rent bills, lease terminations and non-renewals; and they have been accused of illegal sublets. The companies dispute the charges of harassment and say they are protecting their rights.Nevertheless, tenants must answer the notices in court, but many have responded by moving out, court documents indicate. When they vacate the apartments, the owners can increase the rents substantially. “Predatory equity is undermining the best efforts of New York City and state elected officials to slow the loss of affordable housing,” said Benjamin Dulchin, deputy director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a nonprofit organization. “Both the private equity funders and the lending institutions are aware, or should be aware, that harassment of tenants is taking place as a result of their financial models.” Private investment funds have boomed in recent years, buying companies they considered undervalued in industries as diverse as communications, hotels and energy, streamlining operations and then selling them at a profit. For example, private equity firms have bought nursing homes, often slashing expenses and reducing staff to increase their profit. New York provides an unusual opportunity because it is one of the few cities with a large inventory of apartments whose rental rates are regulated and kept below market levels. In the last four years, developers backed by private equity firms have acquired almost 75,000 rent-regulated apartments, Mr. Dulchin said, or about 6 percent of the city’s 1.2 million such units. Major private equity-backed participants in this market include Vantage Properties, which has partnered with Apollo Real Estate Advisors; the Pinnacle Group, a unit of Praedium Capital; and Normandy Real Estate Partners. These companies often make clear that raising rents is crucial to their financial goals. On its Web site, Normandy Partners states “the increased institutional appetite for New York City rent-stabilized housing transactions” and adds: “There is a near-term opportunity to increase cash flow by converting rent-stabilized apartments to market rate as tenants vacate units.”The companies say that they are not harassing tenants and that they are only trying to protect their rights by enforcing legitimate rules governing regulated apartments. But the New York City Rent Guidelines Board says the vacancy rate on rent-regulated apartments is 5.6 percent each year. Buildings with vacancy rates far higher suggest resident harassment, tenant advocates say. Vacancy rates have risen above 20 percent in some buildings owned by Vantage Properties; in some Normandy buildings, the rates exceed 30 percent. If an apartment is rent regulated, yearly increases cannot exceed the amount set annually by the Guidelines Board. Most recently, it was 3 percent on a one-year renewal lease. When an apartment becomes vacant, rents can climb as much as 20 percent. When that rent rises above $2,000, regulations no longer apply, and tenants must pay market prices. To generate returns expected by private equity investors and to pay off the debt used for their purchases, tenant advocates say that managers of the properties are intimidating residents in the hopes of forcing them to leave so that rents can be raised.

Rent-regulated apartments account for 57 percent of the total in the Bronx, 42 percent of the apartments in Brooklyn, 59 percent in Manhattan, 43 percent in Queens and 15 percent of those on Staten Island, the Guidelines Board says. Many of the buildings bought by private equity investors are in neighborhoods that are being gentrified.

Vantage Properties, led by Neil L. Rubler, has paid more than $1 billion in the last two years to buy 9,200 rent-regulated apartments in Queens and Upper Manhattan. Investing alongside Vantage in many buildings is Apollo Real Estate Partners, an investment firm founded by William Mack in partnership with Apollo Management, a private equity firm created by Leon D. Black, a former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker and acolyte of Michael R. Milken. Last month, Mr. Black announced a plan to sell $500 million worth of Apollo Management shares to the public. Apollo Real Estate Partners will not be part of that sale. A spokesman for Mr. Black said it was a separate company in which he had a stake but exercised no control over it. In a group of buildings in Queens with 2,124 apartments, Vantage has filed almost a thousand cases in housing court against tenants since October 2006, according to Robert McCreanor, director of legal services at the Immigrant Tenant Advocacy Project of the Catholic Migration Office in Sunnyside.Mr. McCreanor said he searched public records for similar actions by the previous landlord. He found no more than 350 in any year. “What’s offensive about these business practices is they seek to generate above-average profits by displacing poor people and people who are vulnerable,” Mr. McCreanor said.A spokeswoman for Apollo Real Estate declined to comment on the accusations. But Mr. Rubler called them baseless. “Any exploration of the way we conduct business would reveal that we are steadfastly determined to uphold the rights of our residents and have absolutely no interest in harassing them,” he said. “They are our valued customers, and we treat them as such.”Mr. Rubler said most of his tenants have positive experiences. Claudia Williams, of Corona, Queens, was asked by Mr. Rubler to talk with a reporter. She said that Vantage was allowing her to live in her mother’s apartment even though she had not been the primary leaseholder. Phyllis Miller, a resident of Savoy Park in upper Manhattan, said she believed that tenants who were unhappy with Vantage simply disliked change.But Jose Ricardo Aguaiza, 45, who works as a doorman in Manhattan, said he has lived in the same apartment in Woodside for 14 years and never had a problem until Vantage took over in 2006. Since July 2007, Mr. Aguaiza has been sued by Vantage three times, twice for nonpayment of rent that he was able to demonstrate the company had received. “They refused to give me a renewal contract,” Mr. Aguaiza said. “And in court, the lawyer from Vantage offered to give me three months’ free rent for moving out.” Mr. Aguaiza said he turned down the offer. On April 10, Mr. Aguaiza and five other rent-stabilized tenants living in Queens sued Vantage. The plaintiffs say the company has engaged in deceptive practices that violate New York’s consumer protection laws. Five more tenants are joining the suit.Janice Williams, who works as a freelance producer in television, has lived in a Vantage building in Sunnyside since July 2005 and is a plaintiff. When she moved in, the building was owned by Nathan Katz Realty. In October 2006, Vantage bought the building. Ms. Williams said the property managers rejected her request for a lease renewal in April 2007. They said she was not entitled to the rent-regulated unit because her primary residence was in Greenwich, Conn. But the Sunnyside apartment has been her primary residence since September 2005, Ms. Williams said, and is on her driver’s license and her voting card. She appealed to the New York State division of housing and community renewal and won. “Our apartment building is 72 units, and a little over 20 apartments in the span of a year and a half have turned over since Vantage bought it,” said Ms. Williams, who has organized tenants.The turnover Ms. Williams cited is in keeping with a description of Vantage’s strategy in a 2007 document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission after its purchase of 455 rent-regulated apartments in Washington Heights. The filing described the company’s business model as a “recapturing” strategy. Under the plan, Vantage expected in its first year to turn over 20 percent to 30 percent of the units, five times the typical vacancy rate. Vantage aimed to recapture 10 percent of the units each year afterward. Only 5 of the 455 units were empty at the time of the filing. All but one unit was regulated, with average monthly rent of $752, or 65 percent below market. Once the apartments become vacant, the document said, Vantage will renovate the units and raise rents “to market levels.” That will generate enough cash to service the $70 million in debt that comes due in 2014.Vantage’s debt service is an estimated $1,098 monthly on each unit, almost 50 percent more than the average rent. Mr. Rubler said that the description of the recapture program was “not our words,” but those of the debt security’s underwriter, Credit Suisse Securities. “I think they overstated significantly the focus on turnover in the business plan,” he said.When asked about legal actions taken against tenants, Mr. Rubler said all were mounted solely to protect his company’s rights. “Only in instances where we need to act to protect our own rights do we ever find ourselves in any litigation with a tenant and it is never with the intention to harass them,” he said.The company is also meeting with its tenants to improve communications, he said. Normandy Partners, with almost 2,000 rent-regulated apartments in 42 buildings in the Bronx, East Village and Sunnyside Queens, is another significant landlord backed by private equity. It is a partner with Vantage in 1,650 units in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Mr. Dulchin said the Normandy Partners’ buildings have also had high turnover — more than 30 percent — since they were purchased by the investors. A spokesman for Normandy declined to comment. Pinnacle Group is a third big developer that has joined forces with a private equity firm, Praedium Capital of Chicago. In December 2006, Pinnacle settled a suit brought by the New York attorney general’s office accusing it of rent-gouging. Pinnacle paid $100,000 without admitting to or denying the accusations. The company did not return a phone call seeking comment.Responding in part to indications that harassment is systemic, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation in March making it illegal for a landlord to file repeated and baseless court proceedings to force a tenant to vacate an apartment. Under previous rules, tenants could take their landlord to housing court only over the apartment’s condition or for a failure to provide essential services.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Victory for Tenants as Harassment Bill Passes

By Bennett Baumer February 28, 2008 Posted in IndyBlog Email this article
Yesterday the New York City Council unanimously passed Intro 627-A, a bill that gives tenants the right to sue landlords for harassment. The bill was cosponsored by Speaker Christine Quinn among 34 other council members. The harassment bill is a big victory for tenants under the gun to move out of affordable rent-regulated apartments that landlords could charge exorbitant rates.
The landlord lobby – the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and Rent Stabilization Association had waged a concentrated campaign against the bill. The landlord lobby’s central line of attack was to argue that Intro 627-A would clog the courts with tenant initiated frivolous lawsuits. In opposing the pro-tenant legislation, real estate attorney Adam Leitman Bailey commented that Intro 627-A would cause “thousands of lawsuits, millions of dollars in legal fees.”
Harassment Bill Says: March 4th, 2008 at 4:39 pm
Proposed Int. No. 627-A
By Council Members Garodnick, Mark-Viverito, The Speaker (Council Member Quinn), James, Comrie, Mendez, Jackson, Lappin, Gerson, Palma, Liu, Brewer, Yassky, Dickens, Recchia Jr., Gioia, DeBlasio, Eugene, Addabbo Jr., Gentile, Gonzalez, Koppell, Monserrate, Sanders Jr., Sears, Stewart, Martinez, Arroyo, Foster, Vann, Baez, Mealy, Avella, Barron, White Jr., Gennaro and The Public Advocate (Ms. Gotbaum).
A Local Law
To amend the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to the duty of an owner to refrain from harassment of tenants and remedies for the breach of such duty.
Be it enacted by the Council as follows:Section 1. Subdivision a of section 27-2004 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by adding a new paragraph 48 to read as follows:48. Except where otherwise provided, the term “harassment” shall mean any act or omission by or on behalf of an owner that (i) causes or is intended to cause any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of a dwelling unit to vacate such dwelling unit or to surrender or waive any rights in relation to such occupancy, and (ii) includes one or more of the following:a. using force against, or making express or implied threats that force will be used against, any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit;b. repeated interruptions or discontinuances of essential services, or an interruption or discontinuance of an essential service for an extended duration or of such significance as to substantially impair the habitability of such dwelling unit;c. failing to comply with the provisions of subdivision c of section 27-2140 of this chapter;d. commencing repeated baseless or frivolous court proceedings against any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit;e. removing the possessions of any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit;f. removing the door at the entrance to an occupied dwelling unit; removing, plugging or otherwise rendering the lock on such entrance door inoperable; or changing the lock on such entrance door without supplying a key to the new lock to the persons lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit; org. other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit and that cause or are intended to cause any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of a dwelling unit to vacate such dwelling unit or to surrender or waive any rights in relation to such occupancy.§2. Section 27-2005 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by adding a new subdivision d to read as follows:d. The owner of a dwelling shall not harass any tenants or persons lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling as set forth in paragraph 48 of subdivision a of section 27-2004 of this chapter.§3. Subdivision h of section 27-2115 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by numbering the existing section as paragraph 1 and by adding a new paragraph 2 to read as follows:(h)(1) Should the department fail to issue a notice of violation upon the request of a tenant or group of tenants within thirty days of the date of such request, or if there is a notice of violation outstanding respecting the premises in which the tenant or group of tenants resides, or, if there is a claim of harassment pursuant to subdivision d of section 27-2005 of this chapter, the tenant or any group of tenants, may individually or jointly apply to the housing part for an order directing the owner and the department to appear before the court. Such order shall be issued at the discretion of the court for good cause shown, and shall be served as the court may direct. If the court finds a condition constituting a violation exists, it shall direct the owner to correct the violation and, upon failure to do so within the time set for certifying the correction of such violation pursuant to subdivision (c) of this section, it shall impose a penalty in accordance with subdivision (a) of this section. Nothing in this section shall preclude any person from seeking relief pursuant to any other applicable provision of law.(2) (i) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph one of this subdivision, where one or more allegations of harassment pursuant to subparagraphs b, c and g of paragraph 48 of subdivision a of section 27-2004 of this chapter is made, to the extent that any such allegation is based on physical conditions of a dwelling or dwelling unit, such allegation must be based at least in part on one or more violations of record issued by the department or any other agency. Where any allegation of harassment is based on more than one physical condition, the existence of at least one violation of record with respect to any such physical condition shall be deemed sufficient to meet the requirements of this paragraph.(ii) The provisions of subparagraph i of this paragraph shall apply to any counterclaim or defense presented by a tenant in any proceeding in the housing part of the civil court if such counterclaim or defense is based on one or more allegations of harassment. In the event there is no violation of record with respect to at least one physical condition alleged by such tenant such counterclaim or defense shall be dismissed without prejudice.§4. Section 27-2115 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by adding new subdivisions m and n to read as follows:(m) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a violation of subdivision d of section 27-2005 of this code shall be a class c immediately hazardous violation and a penalty shall be imposed in accordance with this section, provided, however, that such violation shall not be deemed a continuing class c violation of record beyond the time that the conduct constituting such violation occurred.(2) If a court of competent jurisdiction finds that conduct in violation of subdivision d of section 27-2005 of this chapter has occurred, it may determine that a class c violation existed at the time that such conduct occurred. Notwithstanding the foregoing, such court may also issue an order restraining the owner of the property from violating such subdivision and direct the owner to ensure that no further violation occurs, in accordance with section 27-2121 of this chapter. Such court shall impose a civil penalty in an amount not less than one thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars for each dwelling unit in which a tenant or any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such unit has been the subject of such violation, and such other relief as the court deems appropriate. It shall be an affirmative defense to an allegation by a tenant of the kind described in subparagraphs b, c and g of paragraph forty-eight of subdivision a of section 27-2004 of this chapter that (i) such condition or service interruption was not intended to cause any lawful occupant to vacate a dwelling unit or waive or surrender any rights in relation to such occupancy, and (ii) the owner acted in good faith in a reasonable manner to promptly correct such condition or service interruption, including providing notice to all affected lawful occupants of such efforts, where appropriate.(3) An owner may seek an order by the court enjoining a tenant from initiating any further judicial proceedings against such owner pursuant to this section claiming harassment without prior leave of the court if (i) within a ten-year period such tenant has initiated two judicial proceedings pursuant to this section against such owner claiming harassment that have been dismissed on the merits and (ii) a third or subsequent proceeding initiated by such tenant against such owner pursuant to this section claiming harassment during such ten-year period is determined at the time of its adjudication to be frivolous. Except for an order on consent such order may be sought by such owner simultaneously with the adjudication of such third or subsequent judicial proceeding.(4) Where the court determines that a claim of harassment by a tenant against an owner is so lacking in merit as to be frivolous, the court may award attorneys fees to such owner in an amount to be determined by the court.(5) Nothing in paragraphs three or four of this subdivision shall be construed to affect or limit any other claims or rights of the parties.n. The provisions of subdivision d of section 27-2005 of this chapter, subdivision m of this section and subdivision b of section 27-2120 of this chapter shall not apply where a shareholder of record on a proprietary lease for a dwelling unit, the owner of record of a dwelling unit owned as a condominium, or those lawfully entitled to reside with such shareholder or record owner, resides in the dwelling unit for which the proprietary lease authorizes residency or in such condominium unit, as is applicable, or to private dwellings.§5. Section 27-2120 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by renumbering the first paragraph as subdivision a, and adding a new subdivision b to read as follows:a. The department may institute an action in a court of competent jurisdiction for an order requiring the owner of property or other responsible person to abate or correct any violation of this code, or to comply with an order or notice of the department, or for such other relief as may be appropriate to secure continuing compliance with this code. An action for injunctive relief hereunder may be brought in addition to other sanctions and remedies for violations of the code, or may be joined with any action for such other sanctions and remedies except criminal prosecution.b. Any tenant, or person or group of persons lawfully entitled to occupancy may individually or jointly apply to the housing part of the civil court for an order restraining the owner of the property from engaging in harassment. Except for an order on consent, such order may be granted upon or subsequent to a determination that a violation of subdivision d of section 27-2005 of this chapter has occurred.§6. If any sentence, paragraph, section or part of this local law shall be adjudged invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction such judgment shall not impair or invalidate the remainder thereof but shall be confined to that part deemed invalid.§7. This local law shall take effect immediately.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


January 30, 2007 – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the members of the New York City Council will vote on legislation to ensure full opportunity for New Yorkers with limited incomes to obtain affordable housing by prohibiting discrimination against tenants based on lawful source of rent payment. This legislation will help maximize the use of available Section 8 vouchers and help low-income families access safe and permanent housing.


The Council will vote to prohibit discrimination against prospective tenants based on lawful source of income, protecting New Yorkers from housing discrimination and helping those with limited incomes find and maintain affordable housing by maximizing the use of Section 8 vouchers or other forms of governmental rent payment in the City. This vote comes after nearly a year of working with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), landlord and tenant advocacy groups to improve the administration of the Section 8 voucher programs.
“With the rising cost of housing, it’s critical that we take every possible step to preserve and increase access to affordable housing, and this legislation continues the Council’s efforts to do just that,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This legislation, thanks to the hard work of the Council, ACORN and other housing groups, will not only increase access for people eligible for Section 8 vouchers to affordable housing, it will fully protect an individual’s right to housing, regardless of their financial circumstances.”
“As difficult as it is to find affordable housing in New York City, it is significantly harder to find an apartment with a Section 8 voucher,” said General Welfare Committee Chair Bill de Blasio. “This legislation will help maximize available Section 8 vouchers and help low-income families access the housing they are eligible for and desperately need.”
Understanding that small landlords may have difficulty with the administrative burden that can come with the Section 8 program, the legislation exempts landlords who own five or fewer units. However, rent controlled tenants who reside in these small properties would come under the protection of the law. The law applies to all housing accommodations, regardless of the number of units in each, of anyone who owns at least at least one property of six or more units.
A study released by ACORN NY in April of 2007 revealed that of 122 available studios and one bedroom apartments within section 8 limits listed on Craigslist, The Daily News or The New York Times classifieds, only 16 of the owners surveyed would accept Section 8 vouchers. In January of 2007, Mayor Bloomberg announced that 22,000 new Section 8 vouchers would be made available in New York City by the federal government, greatly increasing the number of low-income residents who can afford an apartment. This protective legislation will help maximize the use of available Section 8 vouchers and help low-income families access the housing for which they are eligible.

Embattled Landlord Pinnacle Selling 22 Manhattan Buildings | The New York Observer

Embattled Landlord Pinnacle Selling 22 Manhattan Buildings The New York Observer