NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City and state housing and law enforcement agencies will start working together to catch more landlords who illegally try to force tenants out of rent-stabilized buildings in order to raise rents, officials said on Thursday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said some landlords harass rent-stabilized tenants into leaving by deliberately keeping buildings cold, damp or otherwise unpleasant under the guise of doing renovations.
Landlords can increase the rent on rent-stabilized apartments once they are vacated by 20 percent or more if they make building improvements. They can charge market rates once the rent legally rises above $2,500 a month.
De Blasio described how poor neighborhoods across the city that were once filled with boarded-up buildings and vacant storefronts in the 1980s had been transformed into wealthy enclaves of multimillion-dollar homes.
"This phenomenon of gentrification occurred so quickly, I think all of us are catching up with the impact," de Blasio said at a news conference in Brooklyn.
The mayor, who took office just over a year ago, has made a priority of creating more affordable homes in one of the nation's most expensive cities.
Currently, the city's Department of Buildings and Department of Housing Preservation and Development focus on making sure landlords keep their buildings safe and well maintained.
Separately, a state agency's tenant protection unit and Schneiderman's office investigate patterns of illegal harassment and profiteering.
The city and state agencies will soon share more information through a new task force and will jointly inspect buildings, according to de Blasio, Schneiderman and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"The current real-estate boom ... is not like the real-estate booms we have seen before," Schneiderman said. "It is not going down. This is the landlord-tenant equivalent of climate change."
Since its creation in 2012, the state's tenant protection unit has returned 37,000 apartments to rent regulation after they were unlawfully deregulated, officials said.
New York City is unusual compared with most other American cities in that more residents rent than own their homes.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)