Pilot Program Will Require Certification of No Harassment Before Approval of Construction Permits

Building owners denied certification may not significantly alter their buildings for five years. On October 12, 2018, the de Blasio Administration announced the application of the Certification of No Harassment (CONH) Pilot Program, which seeks to expand tenant harassment protections. The program will require buildings to meet certain criteria to certify that no previous tenant-harassment has occurred prior to obtaining construction permits for significant alterations to their property. CONH currently applies to more than 1,000 buildings, totaling to approximately 26,000 units protected under the program.

The CONH Pilot Program was expanded by the City Council’s 2017 CONH legislation from two versions of the program in Hell’s Kitchen and for Single-Room Occupancy buildings citywide. The program will now be a 36-month pilot. Buildings in the program include those that meet the following criteria: buildings which meet a threshold of distress within 11 community board districts throughout the city where the Community Boards have either undergone city-sponsored neighborhood-wide rezoning or have a high concentration of distressed buildings; any building citywide where a full vacate order has been issued, or where a building is enrolled in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program and remained active in the program for more than four months; and any building citywide where there has been a final determination of harassment in court, or by NYS Homes and Community Renewal within the preceding five years will be added to the list and will automatically be denied a CONH upon application.

Building owners under the CONH program will need to apply for a Certification of No Harassment prior to approval of construction permits. The application is provided to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) which will notify tenants, community groups, the community board, and local elected officials of the application. HPD will subsequently complete an investigation to establish whether there have been reports of tenant harassment within the last five years. If HPD finds no evidence of tenant harassment, the Certification of No Harassment will be granted. However, evidence of tenant harassment is found, a hearing will be held by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings where the building owner could potentially be barred from seeking construction permits from the Department of Buildings. There will be a list of flagged properties will be updated by HPD, and provided on HPD’s and the Buildings’ websites.

The building owners who are denied a Certification will be flagged for five years, and will not be able to significantly alter their properties during this time, “unless they provide permanently affordable housing to be built without City subsidy, tax benefits, or inclusionary housing.”

The program sought to identify ways to further deter tenant harassment by looking at data from previously suspected, reported, or confirmed tenant harassment cases, and found that buildings that are physically distressed or recently sold are likely to be associated with reports of harassment.

“New York City is stopping tenant harassment in its tracks,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We are taking a proactive approach to enforcement and targeting at-risk buildings for increased scrutiny in order to protect affordability across the city.”

“The Council is proud to have worked with HPD and DOB to make this Certification of No Harassment Pilot a reality,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “In the midst of an affordability crisis, tenants in New York have enough to deal with without worrying about harassment from unscrupulous landlords. I will continue to fight for tenants and expansion of tenant protection laws.”

“This is a good day for tenants in New York City. Thanks to the CONH Program, landlords who harass their tenants — with the goal of driving them out so they can raise rents — will no longer be able to get as-of-right building permits to demolish or alter their buildings,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander.

“Finding ways to protect tenants and reduce the pressure of the difficult housing market here in New York is critical to preserving the character and integrity of our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing & Buildings. “This pilot provides yet another tool with which we can help tenants avoid displacement and help them afford to stay in the communities they call home.”

“Unscrupulous landlords use construction projects as a convenient way to force tenants into leaving so they can dramatically raise rents. This is a form of harassment that depletes our city’s affordable housing stock and causes needless despair for so many vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly’s Housing Committee. “This pilot program is an important tool that will help protect tenants from harassment and preserve affordable apartments in neighborhoods that are most at risk.”


By: Samantha Albanese. (Samantha Albanese is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).


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