Tenant Group: Fake Reno Filings Meant to Drive Out Renters

September 25, 2018

A new report from a tenant advocacy organization is alleging that a rising number of fraudulent construction applications for building renovations are an attempt to drive out tenants in rent-controlled apartments.

Sideboard and covered furniture in an apartment

© Westend61/Getty Images

The Housing Rights Initiative says it has discovered more than 10,000 false applications by hundreds of landlords between January 2016 and June 2018. The building applications, however, state that no rent-controlled tenants live there, a statement that HRI says is untrue. The group alleges the disruptive renovations are meant to drive low-rent tenants from the buildings by making conditions difficult during the renovation process.

New York’s council is now introducing legislation to try to stop the rising number of fraudulent construction applications. The city council’s new law would require buildings and finance departments to coordinate their information to identify false applications and conduct an audit of applications. Any false applications would be referred to law enforcement, they say.

“The Department of Buildings has said they would hold landlords accountable for falsifying their applications and now we are going to hold the department accountable for enforcing the law and honoring its promise,” says Aaron Carr, HRI executive director.

However, a representative from the city’s Department of Buildings told The New York Times that they need to conduct their own reviews. The 10,000 permits that HRI reviewed accounted for only 3 percent of the permits issued by the agency over the two-year timeline, according to the department. 

“It is important to determine which, if any, landlords are purposefully hiding rent-regulated units with the goal of harassing tenants,” John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a group that represents landlords, told Bloomberg. “If such behavior is occurring, such owners should be held responsible.”