New York City’s Housing Maintenance Code has always had a broad definition of owner harassment. That definition includes repeated acts or admissions that substantially interfere or disturb the comfort of an occupant, commencement of frivolous court proceedings, or removing possessions of anyone lawfully entitled to occupy the unit dwelling among other bases. The definition was recently amended to specifically include additional conduct.
Effective as of December 28, 2017, the city expanded the definition to include five additional specific circumstances:
- Knowingly providing to any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of the dwelling false or misleading information relating to the occupancy of such unit;
- Making a false statement or misrepresentation as to the material effect regarding the current occupancy or the rent regulatory status of a building or dwelling unit on any application or construction documents for a permit for work;
- Repeated failures to correct hazardous or immediately hazardous violations of this code;
- Repeated false certifications that a violation was cured; and
- Repeatedly engaging in work within the building without a permit in violation of Section 28S-105.1 of the New York City Construction Code.
The penalties have not changed. If a court of competent jurisdiction finds that any of those instances exist, it can fine a building owner up to $10,000. There is nothing in the plain meaning of the amendment that states it can apply retroactively, or which interpretation implicitly requires a retroactive application, but the threat of that interpretation should not be overlooked.
Generally, the city is passing more and more legislation to increase the definition of harassment under the law. Building owners need to comply with these laws to avoid fines and penalties.
Jordi Fernandez Law, P.C.
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 2920
New York, NY 10170