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De Blasio Announces New Measures To Protect Tenants, Vows To Seize Buildings From Bad Landlords

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio made protecting renters a key focus of his annual State of the City address Thursday, announcing a new office aimed at clamping down on landlords who try to illegally force people out of their homes.

De Blasio announced the creation of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants during Thursday morning’s address, producing an executive order and signing it mid-speech. He also said the city would “seize" buildings from the worst landlords.

"The city's worst landlords will have a new sheriff to fear: the Mayor's Office to Protect Tenants," de Blasio said. "When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement agents will be on the ground in time to stop it. We'll use every tool we have.

"We'll fine the landlords. We'll penalize the landlords," he continued. "But if the fines and the penalties don't cut it, we will seize their buildings and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve."

The office — with a budget of $450K and five employees, according to Politico — will examine data and complaints with the view of improving enforcement, The Real Deal reports.

In a statement, Real Estate Board of New York President John Banks said the lobby group supports the call to increase “targeted enforcement on unlawful landlords.”

“Less than 2% of landlords are likely responsible for a disproportionate amount of tenant harassment,” Banks said. “Enhanced coordination among city agencies will better protect tenants and prevent additional bureaucracy that negatively impacts the vast majority of property owners who comply with the law.”

In 2017, the mayor signed a package of laws aimed at protecting tenants, one of which established the Office of the Tenant Advocate. He also created a law that gave low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court the right to free attorneys.