A Synopsis of the NYC Homeowners Handbook (Including the Resources)
In a continued effort to remedy New York City’s challenging home market, Mayor Adams has published the Homeowners Handbook. This handbook is an official guide and compilation of all the resources that a renter or homeowner could need to purchase, maintain, and keep their residence. From resources on emergency repairs to reporting directions for unlawful violations, the Homeowners Handbook aims to take the guesswork and likelihood of scams and wrongdoers out of the housing space.
The release of the Homeowners Handbook is not the Adams administration’s first attempt at covering relevant housing issues for New York residents. Building off of the foundation provided by Housing Our Neighbors: A Blueprint for Housing and Homelessness and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Housing Plan, the Homeowners Handbook aims to provide a comprehensive approach to helping New Yorkers obtain quality housing and know their rights along the way.
With an easy-to-follow layout that highlights various issues a household may face and the resources needed to tackle the problem, this handbook is likely to have major shockwaves in the city, accomplishing an end goal that Adams says many are excluded from, generational wealth.
“The best way to build wealth is to own a home, and my administration is investing the money and doing the work to make the dream of homeownership a reality for more New Yorkers… I will not accept a city where Black and Brown communities and renters are priced out of the chance to build wealth for their children and grandchildren.” says Adams in the Homeowners Handbook Press Release.
Inside the Handbook – Standards and Resources
Chances are that many residents won’t take the time they need to read the handbook until they’re in a pinch. Whether it be because, as a renter, many homeowner resources aren’t pertinent to your situation and vice versa, or simply because they don’t believe they’ll qualify.
In all reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Knowing what resources are available ahead of time makes you more prepared for worst-case scenarios. Not to mention, the Homeowners Handbook emphasizes how informing yourself can help the people you love: neighbors, parents, siblings, and children.
Section by section, these are the highlights, including resources in the Homeowners Handbook.
Resources for Homeowners Needing Financial Help
- Foreclosure Prevention Services – Assistance avoiding the foreclosure process, including housing or legal counseling
- One Shot Deal Emergency Rental Assistance Programs – One-time payments to remedy outstanding taxes or mortgages that increase the risk of foreclosure
- Real Property Tax Credit for Homeowners – A refundable tax credit for limited residents with additional benefits for those 65 years and older
- STAR (School Tax Relief) – Annual tax benefits for homeowners who have enrolled in the STAR program, available as a credit check or exemption, depending.
- Disabled Homeowner’s Exemption – Available for qualified disabled persons with restricted income, owning up to a three-family property.
- Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption – Exclusively for those 65 and older, some seniors are able to obtain a property tax break.
- Veterans Exemption – A property tax break for veterans and their families, including survivors of veterans who died while serving.
- Property Tax and Interest Deferral Program – Property owners requiring assistance with their property tax payments may seek assistance in deferring payments to avoid foreclosure.
Heating, Water, and Energy Help
- Home Energy Assistance Program – An annual subsidy to help cover a household’s utility and heating needs. Also available as an emergency service to avoid disconnection.
- NYS Water Assistance Program – Across New York, residents have access to the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, which helps cover the costs of water services. Also available for emergency, past-due needs.
- NYC Home Water Assistance Program – Helping to subsidize the cost of NYC residents’ sewer and water bills for low-income households.
- Water Debt Assistance Program – A limited refinance option for those who are behind on their mortgages and otherwise need to defer water and sewer payments. For multi-family property owners, visit here.
- Leak and Waste Forgiveness Program – Available for households who suffered from a large utility bill due to a non-fault leak.
- Service Line Protection – Insurance programs for homeowners who do not have the means to repair a service line inside or outside the home in a time of need.
- Flood Protection Insurance – New York City is at risk of flooding more so than ever. This program helps households in need find affordable flood protection and lets homeowners check their flooding risk.
Eco-focused Abatements and Programs
With a wider green initiative in New York City, it makes sense that resources in the Homeowners Handbook would also emphasize a preference for eco-positive options.
- Solar Roof Abatement – Properties that rely on the renewable energy source are qualified for a tax abatement distributed annually for a set maximum.
- Green Roof Abatement – Buildings that implement a green roof are eligible for tax abatements so long as they offer qualifying benefits like rainwater absorption.
- Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star Program – A discount of up to 50% on services and installation for upgrades in energy efficiency.
- NY-Sun Initiative – Expanding the accessibility of clean energy to New York properties via more accessible solar power options.
- Water Saving Kits – Interested in helping NY go green by minimizing your water use? The state has free water-saving kits to help you accomplish that goal, from low-flow showerheads to gravity-tank toilets.
- Energy Saving Abatements – Rebates and abatements for those residing in Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island when using energy-efficient materials.
- Green House Preservation Program – Assistance with financing an energy-efficient installation or water conservation in multi-family properties.
Repairs and Maintenance Assistance
You’re not alone in the maintenance and upkeep of your home. If you require help, many resources are available for residents of all backgrounds and needs. However, there are a few services that you’re responsible for as a homeowner, including pipe preservation (including preventing freezing pipes), snow maintenance or removal, and refuse and recyclables upkeep. For information on help with limited repairs, see below.
- HomeFix – Accessible loans for low-income homes to cover necessary repairs with low or no interest.
- Project HELP – Emergency repair assistance for homes below the 120% median income with a maximum loan amount of $20,000.
- Lead Hazard Reduction and Healthy Homes Program – Despite being fazed out decades ago, lead-based paint still remains in many homes. This program seeks to provide grants for its reduction.
- New York City Historic Properties Fund, Inc. – Residing in a historic property? You may just be eligible to receive a loan that can be applied toward repairs.
- Housing Preservation Development Resources – Classes and clinics to help homeowners understand their needs, including Property Owner Clinics and Property Management Classes
Landlord Responsibilities and Tenant Rights
As a tenant, you have rights. Knowing them can help protect you from unlawful landlords and ensure your quality of life. Landlords are expected and required to adhere to a strict code of conduct to ensure the safety and well-being of all tenants. Here’s what to know:
- Fair Housing and Anti-discrimination – discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, nationality, age, or voucher status is not permitted. To learn the full extent of your rights as a renter, visit the NYC fair housing website.
- Harassment or Unjust Treatment – A landlord may not harass a tenant, regardless of the circumstance. Similarly, they are not permitted to overcharge, lock out, attempt to buy out, threaten, or intimidate tenants. Find more information here.
- Receiving Rental Assistance – New Yorkers of all backgrounds may be eligible for rental assistance. The extent of benefits will depend, but it is important to note that no landlord may discriminate against a voucher-holder.
- Heating and Hot Water – A landlord is required to heat all units to 68 degrees Fahrenheit from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm and 62 degrees from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am during the cold months, or heat season, lasting October 1st through May 31st. Similarly, landlords must provide hot water every minute of every single day. Failure to do so may result in fine accrual.
- Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors – Landlords must install and maintain carbon monoxide and smoke detectors for inhabitants. If a tenant fails to maintain those detectors, they may be required to pay the landlord a fee as a result of replacement or repair.
- Window Guards – In cases when there are children under the age of 10 present in a unit, the landlord must install window guards to keep the child safe. Additionally, a tenant may request window guards for safety or another reason, and the landlord is legally bound to install them.
- Lead Poisoning – In buildings built before 1960, the likelihood of lead-based paint is increased. If a child is present under the age of six, a landlord or other property owner is required to remove the lead-based paint according to health regulations. The landlord must regularly check in with tenants to see if there is a new child in the space. Similarly, lead-based plumbing must properly be addressed if detected.
Tackling Growing Problems
The Homeowners Handbook aims to tackle a number of general but persistent issues affecting New York City residents. Not only does the handbook aim to educate residents on what issues are prevalent, but it also seeks to inform homeowners and renters on how to spot and prevent or cope with common problems in NYC.
Tackling Unauthorized Property Inhabitation
An issue that has long been identified but continues to take shape is NYC’s short- and long-term unauthorized rentals. The Homeowners Handbook aims to help educate the public on what is appropriate and when to report problems, all rooted in remaining vigilant. Instances of unauthorized inhabitation include:
Short-term Vacation Rentals
Homeowners are not permitted to rent their spaces out to vacationers without prior authorization by the city for less than 30 days. This is further highlighted as a growing problem with online rental brands such as VRBO and Airbnb permitting listings on their sight that are not legal.
The handbook emphasizes that this is a growing problem the city aims to crack down on with the help of neighbors, keeping an eye out for a constant influx of guests with travel gear or who appear to be visitors and reporting the incidents. Why? Because these unauthorized short-term rentals further perpetuate the housing shortage, upping rent and leaving actual New York residents without quality housing in favor of short-term rentals.
Illegal Housing Conversions
Cellars that are located in a one to two-family home are not permitted to be converted into a living space. On the other hand, basements are permitted to be used as a living space, so long as they follow strict conversion guidelines. Wondering what the difference between a cellar and a basement is? The Homeowner Handbook outlines the difference as cellars having more than half of their height below the curb level while basements have more than one-half above the curb level.
Deed theft is a tragic way to lose your home, yet it is all too easy. One way this occurs is a forgery in which someone forges your signature, title transfers, and similar documents to take ownership of your home.
The other, which is rising in prevalence, is fraud. This works by a person or company preying on vulnerable homeowners promising false outcomes like help with paying down your debts if you sign over part or all of your home as collateral. You should never sign a document that transfers your rights to another person or company. No reputable party will request this. If this occurs, report the incident immediately.
There are a number of other scams that the Homeowners Handbook hopes to educate residents on. While they’re always changing in order to stay ahead of officials and continue tricking homeowners, keep these general guidelines in mind:
- Never divert payments (mortgage or other fees) to a company that is not your lender
- Never pay upfront fees to a third-party “helper” to have them help you recover in cases of financial hardship.
- Never opt for bankruptcy over making housing payments at the request of someone besides a qualified legal professional.
- Never authorize a change of ownership, partial or whole.
If you’re the victim of one of these growing problems, you’re not alone. Whether it is today or occurred months ago, it is never “too late” to report criminal activity. You may reach out to a local organization for help or contact your local Attorney General’s office for more help.
Homeownership is crucial for beginning or maintaining your family’s generational wealth. Estate planning is one way to protect your investment and ensure it is preserved long-term. The Homeowners Handbook offers step-by-step help on how to conduct end-of-life planning with free resources for aid along the way. From understanding how probates, wills, and trusts work to knowing your legal options, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods’ Homeowner Hub offers free help.
For more information on qualifying factors for assistance-based programs or resources for complaints and legal action, read the entire Homeowners Handbook here. If you’re a homeowner who needs assistance, consider reaching out Homeowners Help Desk in person or online here.
The Homeowners Handbook highlights a number of problems, solutions, and resources for homeowners, renters, and landlords across New York City. It aims to be a comprehensive resource for those involved in all sides of the market to understand their rights and responsibilities, combatting one of New York City’s greatest problems – safe, equitable, and accessible housing for all. Protect your greatest asset or that of your loved ones by staying informed and in charge of your housing decisions.
Kylee was born and raised just outside of Sacramento in a small town full of history and charm. She stays up-to-date on the real estate market and hopes to empower hopeful buyers and sellers to make the best decisions for themselves. Kylee is particularly interested in bridging the gap for younger generations, helping them understand the power of owning and investing in real estate.