The City Council last week passed legislation that will require landlords in certain parts of the city to seek “no harassment” certificates before they can get construction permits.
Under the “Certificate of No Harassment” legislation, owners seeking to demolish or make significant alterations to their buildings must prove they have not engaged in harassment before they can get the required permits from the Department of Buildings.
The CONH program has been in place in Hell’s Kitchen since the mid-1970s; tenant advocates have been trying to get it expanded to neighborhoods with rising rents, where new construction puts residents are at risk of displacement.
“Unfortunately, for some unscrupulous landlords in NYC, harassing tenants is part of the business plan,” City Council member Brad Lander said in a statement. “Once a tenant is driven out, a landlord can make significant renovations, or demolish and rebuild, and then dramatically raise rents. The Certification of No Harassment program is a strong new tool to fight that business model.”
Last week’s legislation establishes a 36-month-long pilot program that will apply to recently rezoned areas like East New York and Far Rockaway, and would also apply to Bushwick, East Harlem, Washington Heights, Highbridge/Grand Concourse, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Morningside Heights, among other areas.
Once a building owner that is subject to the program applies for a Certification of No Harassment, the building’s tenants, community groups, the community board, and elected officials will be notified.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and sometimes a designated community organization, will collect comments from current and former tenants as to whether or not there is evidence of harassment within the previous five years. If such evidence exists and a judge at the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings determines that harassment did indeed take place, the owner will be denied building permits for five years unless the owner agrees to guaranteeing that at least 25 percent of the total residential floor areas be affordable housing.
The pilot program will go into effect nine months after it is signed, and will last three years unless extended.