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NYC launches campaign to promote new tenant protections

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“Laws are only as good as the information that’s out there,” says one city official

Max Touhey

The de Blasio administration is launching a new campaign to boost awareness of the sweeping rent reforms passed in Albany this summer.

The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants’ has launched a new website with digestible breakdowns of the new rights renters have under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. An ad campaign will also plaster bus shelters, ferry terminals, and the subway until December 15 to promote the tenant protections.

City officials are five months late to the news, but said holding off was necessary to give state regulators time to sort through the landmark legislation and issue guidance on how they interpret the laws, according to Jackie Bray, the director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

“All summer long there was a lot of both misinformation and uncertainty around these laws,” says Bray. “As we came into the fall, some things started to solidify more ... so we felt confident putting this campaign out now because we feel confident about the fundamental information.”

These protections include from onerous application fees and hefty security deposits; limits on how rent can be increased; and restrictions on how much landlords can charge regulated tenants for building improvements.

The idea behind the campaign is to supply tenants with specific language they can use in tough conversations with landlords or brokers trying to skirt the law. One ad states, “If your landlord says: I need three months’ security deposit before you move in. Tell them the law says: security deposits can only be one month’s rent.”

Those conversations, of course, can be complicated to have in reality, and tenants who encounter those violating the new laws are urged to contact state officials. For instance, rent-stabilized tenants whose landlords are overcharging security deposits can file a complaint with the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), which is tasked with enforcing the new laws and has published its own series of fact sheets on the regulations.

On the the city’s website, those protections are broken down for tenants of rent-regulated apartments and all other tenants. Bray says the website is a “living, breathing” resource that will be updated with input from DHCR as interpretations of the new laws evolve.

“Things change, priorities emerge and we will respond to those priorities,” says Bray. “We’re focused like a laser beam on making sure tenants have the information they need right now to hold their landlords accountable.”