JAMESTOWN – A new addition to the state’s Multiple Residence Law that prohibits landlords from collecting rent or maintaining a nonpayment eviction proceeding for properties without a valid certificate of occupancy (CO) wont have much of an impact on the city of Jamestown.
That’s according to Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi and Development Director Vince DeJoy, who are responding to a state law signed by governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this week.
According to the governor’s office, the law specifically expands the state’s existing Multiple Residence Law, which covers cities with a population of less than 325,000 people, including Jamestown. Not only do the new additions prevent landlords from collecting rent or evicting tenants when they don’t have a valid certificate of occupancy, it would also prohibit tenants and owners from living in a residence that does not have a valid CO.
However, according to Mayor Teresi, the law will have little to no effect on the city of Jamestown, since the city already addresses the issue by removing the COs when a property has been condemned.
“In Jamestown no building can be occupied for any purpose – residential, commercial, industrial, governmental, institutional, etc. – unless a valid CO has been issued at some point along the line,” Teresi explained after WRFA reached out to ask if there would be any local impact with the new law. “When we cite violations to the point where a property is unsafe to be occupied and we ‘post’ it for no occupancy, we are in effect pulling the CO and the property cannot be reoccupied until all of the issues have been addressed. [When that happens] the CO is in effect reissued allowing for the property to be inhabited and used once again.”
“There is nothing here that is going to put a crimp into our style, as to my knowledge this is the way things have always been done here,” Teresi noted.
However, another component of the new law could have an impact on landlords and their tenants, but that would depend on whether or not legal action is pursued.
“The other legal actions – prohibiting landlords from collecting rent – is more of a matter for the legal combatants and the courts to deal with,” Teresi said.
The mayor also said that even with a valid CO, rental properties can still be in violation of some city codes and not be precluded from having tenants.
“A property can still have a legal CO with code violations present, under citation, and hopefully in the process of being addressed. It’s a matter of degree when things get to the point where conditions are so bad and dangerous that the government has to order it vacated and effectively pull the plug on the CO,” the mayor explained.
“Quite frankly, I’m a little stunned that there are apparently places in the state ( thus the apparent need for this legislation) that allow occupancy of any building without a valid CO,” the mayor added.
City development director Vince DeJoy also pointed out that the new CO rules only addresses rental properties and single-unit properties would not fall under the new state law.
“There isn’t currently a process to provide a CO on established properties where there hasn’t been a change of use, such as converting a one-family house to a two-unit rental property, or a Condemnation has occurred,” DeJoy pointed out. “Perhaps this legislation is leading to something else or more. Could there be more restrictive rental rules coming, and could every rental property be subject to some type of renewal process for the CO? We are not sure right now.”
Under the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law, property owners in New York City were already prohibited from collecting rent or maintaining nonpayment eviction proceedings during the period where a dwelling unit is occupied in violation of the CO requirements. The state’s Multiple Residence Law has also been in place to deal with CO requirements in cities with a population under 325,000.
The new law signed earlier this month would provide more consistency between the two already existing laws.
But as Teresi notes, the new additions not only will have little impact on Jamestown, but most all other communities in the state.
“If a property in Jamestown or elsewhere already is not allowed to be occupied without a legal CO, I’m not entirely sure what the other provision in this new law – landlords can’t charge rent to occupants in properties that are lacking a CO – is actually about and seeking to accomplish,” Teresi said. “Like so often is the case in Albany and Washington these days this appears to be ‘a solution in search of a problem.’”