On June 25, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Loft Law Clean Up Bill.” The new legislation enacts several important changes to the Loft Law.
First, it re-opens the application process and, except for certain portions of the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone in Bushwick, eliminates any deadline for applications.
Second, it creates a new “window period” to prove residential occupancy. Under existing law, Loft Law coverage depended on proving that the building was residentially occupied by three or more families for at least twelve consecutive months during the period January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009. Given that this period is now a decade ago, it presented a daunting challenge for current tenants, most of whom were not living in their units in 2008 or 2009. The new window period is January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.
Third, the bill eliminates some of the obstacles to coverage imposed by the “Bloomberg amendments” to the 2010 Loft Law. The lack of a legal window or the location of the unit in a basement are no longer impediments to coverage.
Fourth, the new law reforms the “incompatible use” exception. Under the 2010 statute, tenants had the burden of proving that the building did not contain an active commercial use that fell into Use Groups 15-18 under the Zoning Resolution. This was a broad swath of establishments, ranging from machinery rental stores to wood shops to chemical manufacturing plants. The Clean Up Bill limits the exception to Use Group 18, which consists mostly of heavy manufacturing, and requires the owner to prove that the use is active and dangerous.
Finally, the law applies to all pending cases, even if on appeal. It also allows tenants who were denied coverage under the prior law, to re-apply based on these amendments.
Hats off to the members of NYC Loft Tenants for their hard work in Albany. Without them, this important expansion of loft tenants’ rights would never have occurred.