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February 26, 2015- Crain’s reports, “Manhattan Councilman Daniel Garodnick plans to introduce a bill Thursday to regulate so-called “tenant relocation specialists” employed by landlords to persuade unwanted tenants to move out.
The bill would require relocation specialists to get licenses from the city, and would prohibit them from harassing or even contacting tenants without prior consent. It would subject violators to fines of up to $10,000. A specialist seeking a license would have to post a $50,000 bond, while a relocation firm of several specialists would need to post $75,000.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, D-Brooklyn, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He has also introduced legislation that informs tenants of their right to refuse buyout offers made by landlords.
Landlord groups were befuddled by the intent of the bill.
“Relocation specialists are offering tenants money,” said Jack Freund of the Rent Stabilization Association. “It’s hard to understand how that could constitute tenant harassment.”
Tenant relocators have come under increased scrutiny lately from prosecutors and elected officials. Housing advocates say relocators target rent-regulated tenants by threatening eviction and illegal sub-leasing in the hopes of inducing them to move.
Landlords can then remove the unit from rent-regulation by a process known as vacancy decontrol, and collect market-rate rents.
One relocator was recently fined $40,000 and put out of business by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is also investigating other relocators for strong-arm tactics.