“Certification of No Harassment” Policy Will Protect Tenants from Harassment

“Certification of No Harassment” Policy Will Protect Tenants from Harassment

Unfortunately, for unscrupulous landlords in NYC – especially in neighborhoods where rents are rising – harassing tenants is part of the business plan. Once a tenant is driven out, the landlord can make significant renovations, or demolish and rebuild, enabling them to dramatically raise rents. While we have taken significant steps to prevent harassment through legislation, proactive enforcement, and providing legal counsel, harassment of rent-regulated tenants remains a significant problem. 

The “Certification of No Harassment” (CONH) legislation will better protect tenants from the cycle of harassment. Under the law, covered building owners will be required to prove they have not engaged in harassment before they can get the permits they need from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) to demolish or make significant alterations to their buildings. If the landlord is found to have harassed tenants, they would not be able to pull those permits – unless they submit to a significant "cure" requirement (making a substantial portion of their building permanently affordable, with no public subsidy).

The CONH program has been in place in Hell’s Kitchen since 1974, and similar requirement applies to all Single-Room Occupancy units (SROs) citywide. Tenant advocates – and especially the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development – have been working to expand the program for many years.

As part of the agreement between the de Blasio Administration and the City Council to adopt Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program, we agreed to work together to expand the CONH program across the city. A Task Force co-chaired by Council Member Brad Lander and the HPD Commissioner, and comprised of a wide range of stakeholders (including building owners and managers, tenant advocates, legal service, and housing policy organizations) met to develop the expanded program. 

As a result of the Task Force process, the City Council and the Administration have developed new legislation that expands the CONH requirement across the city, to buildings that are identified as being at risk for harassment, through a 36-month pilot program.

Here’s how it will work: 

Which Buildings Will Be Covered?

Citywide:

  • Any building where there has been a Court finding or NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) finding of harassment will be automatically denied a CONH if/when they apply for a DOB permit within the last five years. 
  • Any building where a full vacate order has been issued.
  • Any building in the Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP) since February 1, 2016. 

Pilot Geographies:

  • In 11 community districts that have been identified as at particular risk for harassment, a wider set of buildings will be required to obtain a CONH. HPD has developed a “Building Distress Index” that will flag buildings with a combination of recent ownership changes and poor building conditions.
  • Those neighborhoods are: Bx4 (Highbridge/Grand Concourse), Bx5 (Tremont/Fordham), Bx7 (Kingsbridge Heights/Norwood), BK3, (Bed Stuy) BK4 (Bushwick), BK5 (East NY), BK16 (Brownsville), MN9 (Morningside Heights/Columbia), MN11 (East Harlem), MN12, (Washington Heights), QNS14 (Far Rockaway).
  • Neighborhoods will be added to the CONH program when they are part of a City-sponsored neighborhood-wide rezoning.

How the Process Will Work:

CONH Application + Investigation Process:

  • A building owner subject to the program and seeking a permit from DOB for a demolition or significant renovation will apply for the CONH to HPD.
  • When HPD receives the application, they will publish the notice for 7 days and give notice to the current owner, the previous owner, the tenants of the building, community groups, the local community board, the City Council Member and appropriate government agencies.
  • The notice will also be posted in a conspicuous place in the building where the CONH is sought and will be made available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
  • During a 45-day period, HPD (along with, in some instances, a designated community group contracted by HPD) will collect comments from current and former tenants and conduct an investigation as to whether or not there is evidence of harassment within the five years prior to the filing of the application for the CONH.
  • Informed by the results of that investigation, HPD will make a determination. 

HPD Determination + OATH Hearing Process:

  • If HPD determines that there is no evidence of harassment, the owner will be granted a CONH.
  • If HPD determines that there is evidence of harassment within the past five years, a hearing will be held at the Office of Administration Trials and Hearings (OATH).
  • If there has already been a finding of harassment by a Court or HCR, the CONH will automatically be denied, but the owner will have an opportunity to appeal that finding at an OATH hearing.
  • OATH will make its determination within 45 days of the hearing.  

OATH Determination:

  • OATH may determine that harassment did not take place, and the CONH should be granted, which would allow the owner to get a DOB permit.
  • Where OATH determines that harassment has taken place, the CONH will be denied. The owner will be denied DOB permits for demolition and significant renovations for a period of 60-months, unless the owner enters into a cure agreement with HPD.
  • In all cases, owners will have the opportunity to appeal the denial of the CONH in Court through an additional hearing process.

Cure Agreement

  • The Cure Agreement will require 20% (if a new building) or 25% (if renovation of an existing building) of the floor area to be set aside for permanent affordable housing, at an average of 50% AMI, with no public subsidies. This is separate from/in addition to any affordable housing required by MIH or 421-A.One-third of the affordable housing units will be made available at 40 percent of the area median income (AMI), one-third of such units within such building are available at 50 percent of the AMI and one-third of such units are available at 60 percent of the AMI.

Pilot Period and Renewal

  • 36 months after the law takes effect, the law will expire. No less than 6 months prior to the expiration, HPD will submit a report to the Council that evaluates the program’s efficacy to inform the Council’s decision to renew and/or expand the program.

Working Group Process

The CONH Pilot Program was developed through a joint Council/Administration Tenant Harassment Prevention/CONH Working Group that met for a year, from June 2016 to June 2017. The Working Group met in four committees (definitions of harassment, data, alternatives, and implementation). HPD staff conducted extensive data and policy analysis to develop a workable model for the program.

Members of the Working Group included: 

  • Co-conveners: City Council Member Brad Lander & HPD Commissioners Vicki Been/Maria Torres-Springer
  • Government agencies: DOB, OMB, NYS HCR, NYS Attorney General’s Office, Mayor’s Office
  • City Council Members: CM Williams, CM Rosenthal, Legislative and Policy Staff
  • Stakeholders: Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Community Housing Improvement Program, Cypress Hills LDC, Faith in NY, Fifth Avenue Committee, Housing Conservation Coordinators, Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, Los Sures, Make the Road NY, MFY Legal Services, NYSAFAH, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp, NYU Furman Center, REBNY, Rent Stabilization Association, United Neighborhood Housing Program, Urban Justice Center.

Membership in the Working Group does not necessarily indicate that an organization supports the CONH legislation. The goal of the Working Group was to inform Administration/Council development of the program.

The legislation is currently being finalized by the City Council, in dialogue with the de Blasio Administraiton. We hope to bring it to the floor for a vote at the City Council's November 30th meeting.

Sign up for updates!

Follow Me on Social Media