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A new bill, as published in Crain's New York Business, has recently been introduced by Councilwoman Margaret Chin which would require NYC landlords to foot the bill for situations in which tenants are unable to return to their apartments because of a fire or other illegal or dangerous conditions. Property owners would be required to put in the equivalent of at least 10 percent of the past five years of a building's rent into an escrow account when a building is shut down, and the escrow funds would be used to help displaced residents that are without funds to find a place to stay in the meantime. This effort would save taxpayers from having to pay for the relocation costs themselves, especially since many of the vacate orders are issued against property owners who do not adequately care for their property. In 2013, New York City's Department of Buildings issued 1,496 partial-vacate orders that shut down portions of a building, as well as 346 full-vacate orders. 

Effects of the New Bill and Illegal Apartments

 The bill would work two-fold. First and foremost, it would ensure that property owners take better care of their properties, and ensure that their tenants are living in apartments that are fully-maintained and not neglected. Second, this measure would decrease the demand for illegal apartments (or "conversions"), as the current demand is high due to a lack of affordable housing in NYC, coupled with the need for dislocated residents to find a cheap and easy housing option until they can return home. The problem with illegal conversions, as discussed in the New York Times, is that by carving out new living quarters in buildings that are already at their maximum capacity, these units violate many health and fire codes, and put a drain on local resources such as schools, parking funds, and hospitals. Illegal conversion laws have also been the subject of hot debate in NYC. Some housing advocates are interested in legalizing certain types of units, called "micro-units", to meet the increasing need of lower-income tenants. Some believe that these units can even be made to fit the safety and health codes by adding doors and windows, and by ensuring that they are not prone to flooding.
The new bill could have the impact of forcing property owners to actively maintain their buildings to limit the number of vacate orders issued against their property. Though the details of the new bill have not been hammered out, it has been suggested that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development would force building owners to contribute the 10 percent, and a mechanism could be created that would allow the city to impose a tax lien on the property where property owners refuse to make the contribution to the escrow account. 

NYC Premises Liability Lawyers

Even though this bill may come to pass, tenants and residents are still vulnerable to health and fire safety code violations that property managers overlook. Poorly-maintained buildings can lead to health and safety issues among tenants, who may feel that they have little bargaining power when it comes to maintaining their homes in a legal and safe way. If you or a loved one was injured on property owned by a third party, feel free to contact an experienced NYC Premises Liability lawyer who can provide guidance and counsel as to your rights and any damages that you may recover as a result. Feel free to give us a call at 212-818-0600 or send us a message online to one of our legal representatives at the firm of Keogh Crispi, P.C.  

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