Thursday, June 24, 2010

Governor Patterson Expands Loft Law

After a fierce battle between opponents of rent regulation and proponents of ensuring safe housing for a large class of New York City residents, just before midnight on June 21, 2010, Governor Patterson took the brave step of signing into law new legislation that will make the Loft Law permanent, and expand its coverage.

The Loft Law was originally enacted to provide protection to the many illegal residential occupants of commercial units throughout New York City, particularly downtown Manhattan.  In a nutshell, it provided a means by which commercial buildings that were occupied residentially could be brought into code compliance with housing maintenance, health, safety, and fire protection standards.  Not all buildings qualified though.  Only commercial buildings that were occupied residentially by three or more tenants, separately, during the entire window period from April 1, 1980 to December 1, 1981 qualified.  The qualified buildings were termed "interim multiple dwellings" for the period during which they underwent conversion to legal residential occupancy.  After the completion of such conversion, the legal residential units therein were brought into the rent regulation system.  While certain amendments to the Loft Law in 1987 provided expanded protections, those amendments did not provide coverage to any commercial units that were used for residential purposes after 1987.  To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the Loft Law was set to expire this year.

The new legislation has addressed both the Loft Law's limited coverage, and potential expiration.  To alleviate any concerns about the Loft Law's expiration, the new legislation has made the Loft Law permanent.  The new law also expands the Loft Laws coverage to a new class of buildings.  The definition of "interim multiple dwelling" has been amended to include commercial buildings in New York City that were occupied residentially by three or more families, living separately, for 12 months during the window period from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2009.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought hard against the bill, seeking to limit the Brooklyn Industrial Business Zones to which it applies.  Those 16 IBZs, created by Bloomberg to encourage manufacturing in New York City, include Greenpoint-Williamsburg, and North Brooklyn.  Ultimately, only 3 of the 16 IBZs were included, leaving the residential tenants in the other 13 zones without any means of obtaining legal and safe occupancy.

All in all, the new legislation should be considered a great success.

Be well, and always know your rights.

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