Tenant harassment when an owner is offering a “buyout” deal has captured a great deal of attention in New York City as many believe this is occurring more frequently. In an effort to increase the protection of tenants who do not want to take the buyout offers, the City Council on August 13, 2015 passed three measures to redefine and reduce the “harassment” of tenants.
These pieces of legislation recognize the legitimacy of certain reasons for building owners to make buy-out offers to tenants; however, the Council believes it necessary to place “limited, short term restrictions on the making of these buy-out offers in order to protect tenants from harassment while still allowing owners and tenants to engage in negotiations over such offers.” Proponents of these measures argue that tenants can sometimes be shortsighted in the face of generous lump-sum payments, and may not realize possible implications on their rent stabilization status.
All three bills, summarized below, passed with only one negative vote each.
Intro. 682 makes it an “act of harassment” for a landlord to make a buyout offer using threatening or obscene language, misrepresent any facts, contact a tenant at work, or make the offer “with such frequency, at such unusual hours or in such a manner as can reasonably be expected to abuse or harass such person.”
Intro. 700 requires that landlords to put their buyout offers in writing, detailing “the purpose of such contact…that such person may reject any such offer and may continue to occupy such dwelling unit… that such person may seek the guidance of an attorney regarding any such offer and may, for information on accessing legal services, refer to The ABCs of Housing guide on the department’s website…that such contract is made by or on behalf of such owner, and…that such person may, in writing, refuse any such contact and such refusal would bar such contact for 180 days, except that the owner may contact such person regarding such an offer if given express permission by a court of competent jurisdiction or if notified in writing by such person of an interest in receiving such an offer.”
Intro. 757 would protect tenants who have told a landlord in writing that they are not interested in a buyout offer, from making repeated buyout offers “except that the owner may contact such person regarding such an offer if given express permission by a court of competent jurisdiction, or if notified in writing by such person of an interest in receiving such an offer.”
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