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RSA Responds to City Council Bill Relating to Indoor Allergens

The pro-tenant Members of the City Council have brought attention to a proposed bill that would require owners to remove indoor allergens or face violations.

The bill, Intro. 385-B, also known as The Asthma-Free Homes Bill, was recently covered in the media as a result of tenant advocates urging stronger support from Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Jumaane Williams, who chairs the Council Committee on Housing and Buildings. The bill, which is sponsored by Manhattan Council Member Rosie Mendez, was originally introduced in 2014 and would require building owners to remove any potential indoor allergens, such as molds and pests, in a timely manner or be subject to fines issued by the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Despite the bill sitting in Committee for over three years, Council Member Mendez is urging either Speaker Mark-Viverito or Chair Williams to bring the bill up for a vote since Council Member Mendez has reached her term limit and will not return to office in 2018. As a result of the attention that was brought to the legislation through the media, Frank Ricci, RSA’s Director of Governmental Affairs, and Mitch Posilkin, RSA’s General Counsel, quickly responded by writing a thorough letter to Chair Williams that details the reasons why RSA opposes Intro. 385-B.

The legislation would not only create another set of procedures, investigations, notices, inspections, violations and enforcement mechanisms that would not only be burdensome for building owners, but would also not accomplish the actual purpose of the bill, which is to aid those who actually suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Currently, rental property owners are already required to be responsive under the Housing Maintenance Code and other laws to conditions relating to molds and pests. RSA strongly believes that the numerous existing laws that address these housing conditions already adequately address these concerns.

The letter explains that this bill, as it is written, is based upon the idea that a “one-size, fits all” approach is appropriate in the context of indoor allergens. Intro. 385-B would apply existing City requirements relating to lead paint to indoor allergens. However, the City’s lead paint laws are based on the fact that lead paint is a legitimate threat to the health of young children. Indoor allergens such as mold and pets are not subject to the same objective indicators and the bill was drafted under the assumption that any mold or pest condition is capable of causing allergic reactions to any person.

RSA believes the issue of indoor allergens relating to molds or pests is a far more complicated issue and that the proposed bill does not properly address certain issues. These issues include, but are not limited to, whether or not all molds and pests are the same, whether or not they are equally hazardous to tenants and whether or not some tenants might be more sensitive or more prone to allergic reactions than others.
Because the legislation fails to distinguish between any of these situations, the bill will ultimately force owners to expend resources and effort on apartments where no health risk may exist at all, thereby wasting valuable resources that could be used for necessary repairs and improvements on their buildings.

At this point, we are unsure whether or not the bill will come up for a vote or whether it will progress through the Council any further. We will keep you apprised of any further developments. To read RSA’s letter to Council Member Williams regarding Intro. 385-B in its entirety, you may view it on RSA’s website

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