There’s a new weapon in the fight against illegal home conversions.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, December 1 signed legislation into law that will protect tenants and assist in the fight against illegal home conversions, an issue that has run rampant in neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and beyond.
The new law will require property owners to provide proof to tenants of a residential lease that a valid certificate of occupancy exists for the dwelling in question. It aims to protect tenants who may assume that an apartment for rent is safe and up to code when that is not always the case.
“Tenants have every right to know if the apartment they are renting is legal, and property owners are now required to disclose that information,” said State Senator Marty Golden, who sponsored the bill in the State Senate. “Illegal modifications to our housing stock are endangering residents andfirst responders, and are causing our quality of life to diminish.”
Assemblymember Pamela Harris, who collaborated with Golden on the legislation and sponsored it in the Assembly, said, ““Illegal conversions to apartments have posed a major risk for families throughout Brooklyn and across this city. No family should be forced to live in unsafe, cramped conditions all so that landlords can make more money.”
The issue of illegal home conversions has been ongoing for years in southern Brooklyn. This past January, a Dyker Heights home was issued a full vacate order after DOB officials found that it had been illegally converted from a two-family home to an eight-family home, housing just over two dozen people at 1178 65th Street. Other high profile illegal conversions busted in the area include 1317 73rd Street and 6705 Seventh Avenue.
According to the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance, of the 448 illegally converted homes reported in Community Board 10 in 2015, the DOB was able to access 246 homes, a 25 percent increase from 2014. Where the DOB got access, 35.6 percent of the homes were issued code violations; an increase from 19.7 percent in 2014. Overall, since 2014, there has been a 300 percent increase in vacate orders for the two neighborhoods.
Though, there is still more fight to be had, according to local stakeholders.
“I’ve been fighting to crack down on this illegal practice since I was elected to the Assembly and I am so proud to see this bill signed into law,” said Harris.
The new law follows by just a few months the Aggravated Illegal Conversion Bill, sponsored by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in June which could help curb illegal conversions in the neighborhoods they plague by increasing penalties on those who create them.
This new law takes effect immediately upon enactment and would apply to all residential leases entered into on and after such date, according to the pols.