New York City recently enacted a bill that adds two new additions to the lengthy list of protected classes under the New York City Human Rights Law. The law, which will go into effect on Nov. 22, 2023, makes it illegal to discriminate against an apartment buyer, renter, job applicant, independent contractor, or current employee based on the person’s perceived weight and height.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams recently announced the appointment of Nestor Davidson as the new chair of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. The nine-member Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) is responsible for adjusting rents for the one million New York City apartments subject to the city’s rent stabilization law.
On Sept. 15, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Expanding Service Coordinators Act. The two primary programs that fund service coordinators for residents of federally assisted housing are the Multifamily Housing Service Coordinator program and the Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator program.
Alteration Agreement SignedIn February 2019, Stefan Brodie and Irina Denisova, unit owners in the Aldyn Condominium at 60 Riverside Drive, signed an alteration agreement and submitted the required $10,000 security deposit to renovate their apartment. The project timeline submitted to the board indicated that renovations would be completed by September 2020, but by spring 2022 the work had not been completed. The alteration agreement provided for the assessment of a $500-per-day charge for each day that the renovation continued beyond a “Required Completion Date.”
Board Steps In Because the duration of the project exceeded the board’s expectation, the board issued a “stop work notice,” issued fines, and seized the security deposit the unit owners had paid.
67-69 ST. NICHOLAS AVE. HOUS. DEV. FUND CORP. V. GREEN
The board of a South Harlem HDFC co-op at 67 St. Nicholas Ave. engaged in a legal fight over its commercial space. In 2004, when the board president was Siwana Green, the co-op issued a lease for the commercial space to Thomas Green, her husband, and their partnership “A Cup of Harlem.” It was a 99-year sweetheart lease at $700 per month with an option to renew for an additional 10 years at $800 per month. The Greens sublet this space for 10 years (2009 through 2019) at $2,500 per month to Antonio Contreras, who operated a hair salon, renewed the sublease at $2,800 for an additional five years, and netted nearly $350,000 in profit over this period.
Ink Property Group bought 32 buildings between 2014 and 2019 and forced out at least 80 tenants to offer units at market rate, among many other abuses and predatory practices. To flip the units, Attorney General James said the company worked to strategically force out tenants through buyouts, harassment, and worsening living conditions. An Attorney General's office probe into Ink Property Group began in 2019 following numerous complaints from tenants, according to the settlement.
HUD recently announced that an Administrative Law Judge found that a Long Island landlord violated the Fair Housing Act when he refused to rent to a mother and her daughter because of the daughter’s cerebral palsy. The judge ordered the owner to pay $50,530 in damages to the family and a $20,111 civil penalty to the United States. The judge said the landlord’s behavior “merits imposition of a maximum civil penalty.”
Almost two and a half years ago the board of an eleven-unit condominium in East Harlem discovered that Kwame Leslie Dougan, the owner of a ground-floor apartment, was renting his unit on Airbnb. The board saw his marketing on the Airbnb site, and also found a lockbox containing keys to the building’s front door located on the exterior window outside Dougan’s apartment. The board instructed its attorney to notify Dougan that he was breaching the bylaws, and over the years numerous motions were filed to compel him to stop this behavior.
The board had spent $37,741.85 on attorney fees over this period trying to get Dougan to stop the short-term rentals. He clearly violated the condo’s bylaws, and the court had ordered a cease and desist order to him. This case sought to compel Dougan to reimburse the condominium for the legal fees it had spent.
When negotiating the terms of a work letter with a tenant, don’t just agree to do a particular item of work “to code,” without listing any specifics or limitations. When not properly defined or limited, the phrase “to code” can be the source of confusion, miscommunication, and litigation.
It’s not uncommon for tenants to sign a lease without telling the landlord exactly what it needs from the space and how it should be set up to meet those needs. In some cases, the landlord will have a pretty good sense of and confidence in its ability to deliver what the tenant wants and needs from the space without actually checking to see if any special requirements apply under local zoning, building, fire, or electrical codes.
“No one should have to change how they express their gender identity to maintain their housing,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Setting restrictions like these is not only unacceptable, it is illegal. This charge demonstrates HUD’s commitment to enforcing the Fair Housing Act and ensuring housing providers meet their fair housing obligations.”