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Bill to put tenant relocation costs on landlords is back

New York City has a lot of buildings and a lot of them are not as safe as they should be. Considering that so many of them are called home by city residents, it is understandable that government leaders would be interested in trying to make sure the residences are as safe as possible.

Holding negligent landlords accountable for failing to provide safe accommodations is a struggle that has been going on for as long there have been even the most minimal of building codes. In the case of New York City, that means going back a few centuries. In the years since, the code has only gotten more comprehensive. And still, there are those who flagrantly disregard the law.

The result of such laxity is that buildings fall into significant disrepair to a point where they become downright dangerous. In the worst such cases, it becomes necessary to relocate the tenants for the sake of preservation of life and limb. And it becomes fair to ask, who should be responsible for the cost of those relocations?

Many argue that it should be the landlords who failed in their duty to maintain their properties in the first place. And under current Housing Preservation and Development Department policy there is a means for doing that. But it involves the HPD covering the costs up front and then having to go after the landlord later.

Sometimes the cost and the recovery probably don't wash, and new rules proposed by HPD would also restrict alternative housing options for tenants who do suffer displacement.

Fourteen members of the City Council say that's not right. They're getting behind a proposed bill that would let the HPD require landlords to put a certain amount of money into escrow for necessary repairs. Supporters say that in addition to making repair capital more readily available, the hope is that the requirement will deter landlords who willfully make their buildings hazardous as a ploy to vacate rent-regulated tenants.

It's not clear if the measure stands a chance of even getting a hearing at this point. The Real Estate Board of New York, which represents landlords, says the bill would be a punishment on all landlords for the deeds of a few bad actors.

What do you think?

Source: Capital New York, "Renewed push for unsafe-buildings bill decried by REBNY," Ryan Hutchins, Jan. 29, 2015

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