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Demolition eviction: a new tactic for landlords to evict rent-stabilized tenants

If you occupy a rent-stabilized apartment, you understand the value of your property. Rents are high in New York, and your current rent may be the only affordable way for you to remain in your home and stay afloat financially.

However, landlords of rent-stabilized apartments are also aware of their value. As a result, many landlords work to "de-tenant" rent-stabilized apartments so they can seek higher rents.

Over the years, landlords have used many tricks to try to get tenants out of these apartments, including many illegal methods. This can include anything from taking the front door off an apartment to hiring an ex-cop to harass tenants. The law protects tenants from many of these tactics. For example, the New York City Housing Maintenance Code was recently amended to prohibit overzealous solicitation of tenants for buyouts as well as the use of physical force.

Landlords are continually looking for new methods to empty rent-stabilized apartments. Last week at TerraCRG's annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, a well-known landlord attorney in New York presented this as the recommended method to evict rent-stabilized tenants in her presentation "Tenant Buyouts - For the Next Generation."

What is demolition eviction?

In this type of eviction, a landlord may be able to deny lease renewal to a rent-stabilized tenant if the landlord can show the state:

  • New, approved building plans for the property
  • Financing to complete the demolition and construction
  • An agreement to pay tenants' relocation expenses and stipends

During her presentation, the attorney stated that the demolition law does not penalize landlords who fail to complete the demolition and construction after evicting tenants. However, the Rent Stabilization Code's definition of Harassment includes, "...unwarranted or baseless court proceedings, or filing of false documents with or making false statements to the DHCR..." Also, the relocation expenses and stipends do not begin to compensate tenants for the loss of a rent-stabilized apartment.

Demolition eviction does have some limits. First, it can take a long time to get final approval. Additionally, it can be difficult to use this approach to evict rent-controlled tenants.

Since this approach has limits and many landlord tactics are prohibited under New York landlord-tenant law, you should work with an attorney if you are facing a buyout or eviction from a rent-regulated apartment. An experienced lawyer can ensure your rights are protected and help you resolve issues with your landlord.