However, tenants are becoming more and more aware of their rights in these buyout transactions – if a tenant moves, then the owners can make a lot more money. According to a report from Stabilizing NYC, tactics used by landlords to eject rent-stabilized tenants can vary widely by neighborhood. 

 

One common tactic is the buyout. A landlord offers to pay tenants a lump sum to move out of their rent-stabilized apartments. A landlord’s main goal is to replace the existing tenant with anew tenant under a higher market rent rate. This method, however, often allows landlords to use harassment and intimidation to force tenants to accept the buyouts. Other tactics include construction on the building to interfere with tenant's lives making them uncomfortable or creating hazardous living conditions. This article provides an overview of tenant rights, issues, and factors to keep in mind when negotiating and understanding your tenant buyout agreement.

What’s a buyout really worth?

A rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment may be one of the most coveted assets in New York City. Many wonder how much a buyout is worth for a rent-stabilized or a rent controlled tenant. In general, a buyout could range from $20,000 to $60,000. In most cases, determining an accurate estimate value of a buyout requires a balancing act. To help calculate a potential buyout, a tenant should look at the difference between the current rent the tenant pays and the market rate. From here, the tenant would build a cash flow model of how much more the landlord would make if the landlord could rent to someone else at market rate.

It is important to understand the different factors landlords and tenants should consider when negotiating a buyout agreement. Landlords will consider how much money is enough to get the tenant to vacate while ensuring their buyout offer is within their budget to make the buyout economical. Tenants should consider the cost of moving, contingency lawyer fees, taxes, and paying a potentially higher rent someplace else.

Tenant Rights: Harassment

If you are a tenant subject to harassment from your landlord due to a potential buyout, it is important to understand your rights. In 2015, legislators amended the New York City Housing Maintenance Code to protect tenants and prevent landlords from harassing tenants in buyouts. In summary, a landlord cannot secure a buyout by using:

• Force;

• Threats of force;

• Interruptions or discontinuances of essential services;

• Commencing repeated baseless or frivolous court proceedings;

• Tampering with the entrance or the lock;

• Threatening, intimidating, or using obscene language;

• Constant communication, at unusual hours or in a manner one can reasonably expect to

be abuse or harassment;

• Communication at the place of tenant’s employment, without prior written consent; and

• False information.

Further, a tenant can notify a landlord in writing that they wish to not be contacted by the landlord for 180 days and the landlord must honor this request. In New York City, if you are a victim to harassment by your landlord, you may be able to obtain anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for a first offense and $2,000 to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

Landlord Disclosures

When initiating a buyout process, a landlord will approach a tenant to discuss the potential buyout. It is important for a tenant to know their rights when communicating with a landlord, to ensure that the landlord is not harassing the tenant and that the tenant has enough time and space to consider the offer.

In these circumstances, a landlord must disclose in writing:

• The purpose of such contact;

• That the tenant may reject any such offer and may continue to occupy such dwelling unit;

• That the tenant may seek the guidance of an attorney regarding any such offer and may refer to the ABCs of Housing guide on the department’s website; and 

• That the tenant may refuse any contact for 180 days.

Demolition Eviction

In some instances, a landlord may recover a building and evict tenants through a demolition project. In order to achieve an eviction through demolition, a landlord must obtain permission from the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal (“DHCR”); a landlord must show proof that the landlord has money for the project; the plans for the project must be approved by the Department of Buildings, Landmarks, and/or the Department of Environmental Protection; the landlord must pay a tenant’s moving expenses; landlord must pay tenant a $5,000.00 stipend; landlord must relocate tenant or pay an additional stipend; landlord must provide a termination notice; and no rent increases while applications with DHCR are pending. Rent Stabilization Code 2524.5(a).

The information above is intended to provide limited information only and is not legal advice. The laws relating to tenant buyout agreements in New York are complex. If you are a party to a matter concerning a tenant buyout agreement or otherwise need further guidance in this or a related area of law, Singh & Rani, LLP can assist you.

Sources:

1. Tenant Buyout – For the Next Generation (By Michelle Maratto Itkowitz, Esq.

www.itkowitz.com);

2. City Council Overwhelmingly Passes Tenant Harassment Bills Package, Jonathon

Sizemore;

3. 37 No. 1 Quinlan, Landlord Tenant Law Bulletin NL 5, Landlord Tenant Law Bulletin,

January 2016, Volume 37, Issue 1, Landlord Tenant Law Bulletin; and

4. https://priceonomics.com/how-much- should-a- landlord-pay- a-tenant- to-move/

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Bikram Singh

Mr. Singh has been practicing law in the New York State and Federal Courts for almost 10 years. He was a principal attorney at Bikram Singh Law, P.C., after graduating with honors from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in 2008.