Councilmember Chin Resubmits Bill to Make Landlords Pay For Displacing Tenants

City Councilmember Margaret Chin held a press conference at City Hall to announce her legislation.

City Councilmember Margaret Chin held a press conference at City Hall to announce her legislation.

City Councilmember Margaret Chin is taking another run at legislation requiring building owners to pay relocation costs when tenants are displaced.

She unsuccessfully pushed a similar bill during the Bloomberg Administration and again in 2014. In the past year, progressives in the City Council enacted tough new laws that crack down on negligent property owners. This month, the displacement of residents at 85 Bowery due to a city vacate order has given the legislation more urgency.

The bill would require landlords to cover relocation expenses by depositing money into an escrow account equal to 10% of a buildings’ rent roll for a five-year period. The payments would have to begin as soon as the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order. The law would only apply to landlords with an, “egregious history of negligence and abuse.”

On Jan. 18, nearly 100 tenants at 85 Bowery were forced from their apartments after city inspectors declared the stairwell unstable. They were moved by the Red Cross to a temporary shelter. The city’s Department of Hosuing Preservation and Development is now responsible for housing the tenants at a hotel in Brooklyn. The city typically tries to recoup relocation costs after the fact, rather than demanding immediate payment from the property owner. In a Facebook message, Councilmember Chin said:

This bill would provide needed funds to tenants targeted by unscrupulous landlords AND incentivize the timely completion of repairs. For the past couple weeks, 85 Bowery families – far from their kids’ schools, workplaces and communities – have had to resort to using their own resources and incur daily costs just to go about their normal lives. I spoke with a local principal about one senior who takes car service every day to bring her 4 year old granddaughter to preschool in Chinatown. 

Chin was joined today by Councilmember Robert Cornegy, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, and by District 2 Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

“For too many New Yorkers,” said Cornegy, “especially New Yorkers of color, the affordability crisis in this city has forced them out of the neighborhoods they were raised in and for some, it has forced them out of housing all together. When landlords choose to force tenants out by refusing to maintain their buildings and then issuing vacate orders, they are only rubbing salt in the wound that is the affordable housing crisis we face. By holding landlords more directly accountable for the cost of displaced tenants, this bill will provide an important tool to help combat both nefarious landlords and the lack of affordability in this city.”

As we reported Friday evening, property owner Joseph Betesh is saying he can’t meet the city’s Feb. 1 deadline for completing repairs at 85 Bowery. Chin wrote a letter to Betesh this week urging him to pay for hotel rooms in Lower Manhattan.