City of Buffalo, NY
Erie County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Buffalo 9-8-1998, effective 9-25-1998; amended in its entirety 7-6-2004, effective 7-16-2004. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Certificates of occupancy — See Ch. 129.
Housing standards — See Ch. 242.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 341.
The Common Council of the City of Buffalo hereby finds and declares that the rental of dwelling units constitutes a business which impacts upon the public health, safety and general welfare of the people of the City of Buffalo. The intent of this chapter is to regulate the offering for rental of dwelling units to protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the people of the City of Buffalo and to further achieve the following beneficial purposes:
A. 
The protection of the character and stability of residential areas;
B. 
The correction and prevention of housing conditions that adversely affect or are likely to adversely affect the life, safety, general welfare and health, including the physical, mental and social well-being of persons occupying dwellings;
C. 
The enforcement of minimum standards for heating, plumbing and other sanitary equipment necessary for health and safety;
D. 
The enforcement of minimum standards for light and ventilation necessary for health and safety;
E. 
The enforcement of minimum standards for the maintenance of existing residential buildings and the prevention of slum and blight conditions;
F. 
The preservation of the value of land and buildings throughout the City.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
COMMISSIONER OF PERMIT AND INSPECTION SERVICES or COMMISSIONER
The Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services or his designee.
DWELLING UNIT
A single residential accommodation which is arranged, designed, used or, if vacant, intended for use exclusively as a domicile or residence of one or more human beings.
HOUSING CODE
All state and local laws, codes, ordinances, rules and regulations for the establishment and maintenance of housing standards.
OWNER
The owner or owners of the freehold of the premises or lesser estate therein, a mortgagee or vendee in possession, assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee or agent.
A. 
Registration required. No person shall allow to be occupied, or rent to another for occupancy, any dwelling unit unless the owner has first obtained a rental dwelling unit registration certificate as hereafter provided.
B. 
Exemptions. The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to owner-occupied properties containing two or fewer dwelling units; hotels; motels; bed-and-breakfast establishments; rooming or boarding houses; hospitals; nursing homes; or other dwelling units which offer or provide medical or nursing services if such units are subject to state or federal licensing or regulations concerning the safety of the users, patients or tenants. The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to buildings having an existing and valid certificate of occupancy.
[Amended 1-11-2005, effective 1-24-2005]
(1) 
Exemptions to provisions herein concerning lead in a property shall not apply to properties constructed after 1978, or to properties for which the owner has submitted a letter of compliance from a licensed lead inspector. In addition, the Commissioner of the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, or his designee, may determine that a property is in compliance. The Department of Permit and Inspection Services reserves the right to request a third-party verification of compliance concerning safety of the property.
[Added 10-18-2016]
A. 
Within 60 days after the effective date of this chapter, the owner of each dwelling unit existing on the effective date of this chapter shall make written application to the Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services for a rental dwelling unit registration certificate. In addition, the owner of each dwelling unit constructed after the effective date of this chapter shall make written application to the building official for a rental dwelling unit registration certificate as herein provided prior to any initial occupancy. Such application shall be made on a form furnished by the Commissioner and shall set forth the following information, in addition to other information required by the Commissioner from time to time which may be necessary to administer, enforce, and insure compliance with the provisions of this chapter and the housing code.
(1) 
Name, principal residence address, principal business address and telephone number of the owner.
(2) 
If the owner is an association, limited liability partnership, joint tenancy, tenancy in common or tenancy by the entirety, then each and every owner or general partner shall be indicated on the application and register an address in accordance with Subsection A(1) of this section.
(3) 
If the owner is a corporation, the principal place of business of the corporation must be provided and the name, title and residence address of all officers, directors, managing or general agents must be included.
(4) 
If the owner has designated an agent or managing company, then the name, principal residence address, principal business address and telephone number of such agent or managing company must be included in addition to that of the owner.
(5) 
It shall be the responsibility of the owner to properly register any change of address, agent or any other information which occurs after the filing of the application.
(6) 
For purposes of this section, a post office box shall not be accepted as the owner's address. Further, the building intended to be licensed shall not be accepted as the owner's address unless it is the principal place of business or residence of the owner.
(7) 
The owner shall specify the address to which all notices of violation issued pursuant to § 264-15 of this chapter, and other violations of the housing codes, and invoices for fees are to be forwarded.
(8) 
If the owner does not reside within the County of Erie (New York State), the name address and telephone number of a contact/agent who resides in the County of Erie (New York) must be provided.
(9) 
If the property was constructed prior to 1978, the owner shall certify that the owner is aware of the possibility of lead in the property; that the owner is aware of federal disclosure requirements concerning property that may contain lead and has complied with federal disclosure requirements; and that the owner is familiar with the use of lead-safe methods during painting, renovation, or repair of the property. Said certification will be made available for completion on the City of Buffalo webpage and in the Department of Permit and Inspection Services at City Hall.
[Added 10-18-2016]
B. 
Failure to provide such information shall be grounds to deny a rental dwelling unit registration certificate.
Upon completion of an inspection of a building and dwelling units therein, if the Commissioner finds noncompliance with the housing code, the Commissioner shall issue a notice of violation in accordance with § 264-15 of this chapter for the correction of any violations of the housing code. Upon reinspection, if the Commissioner finds noncompliance with the notice of violation the Commissioner shall deny a certificate or revoke any issued certificate in accordance with the procedure set forth in § 264-10 of this chapter. The Commissioner shall issue a written statement setting forth the reasons for the denial or revocation.
A. 
Vacant units. When a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been denied or revoked, no further rental and occupancy of dwelling units then vacant shall be permitted until a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been issued.
B. 
Occupied units. In addition to other penalties under this chapter, when a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been denied or revoked, the dwelling units containing such violations shall be vacated after the Commissioner provides notice to the owner and the occupants of the dwelling units containing said violations. Such notice shall direct the owner and occupants of the dwelling units containing such violations to vacate within a period of time as determined by the Commissioner and may provide a reasonable period for the owner or occupants an opportunity to correct such violations. For the owner, such notice shall be mailed by first class mail to the owner at the address provided by the owner pursuant to § 264-4 of this chapter or personally served upon the owner by delivering the notice to the owner or by delivering the notice to a person of suitable age and discretion at the owner's residence or place of business. For the occupants, such notice shall be mailed to the occupant at the dwelling unit or posted conspicuously at the occupant's dwelling unit. Vacated dwelling units shall not be reoccupied until a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been issued.
C. 
Occupied units; immediate hazard. In addition to other penalties under this chapter, when a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been denied or revoked for reasons which, in the determination of the Commissioner, present violations of the housing code that create an immediate hazard to the health and safety of the occupants, the dwelling units containing such violations shall be vacated within 30 days of such determination. The Commissioner's determination shall be in writing and shall direct the owner and occupants of the dwelling units containing such violations to vacate the premises within a period of time not to exceed 30 days, as determined by the Commissioner. The Commissioner's determination shall be mailed by first-class mail to the owner at the address provided by the owner pursuant to § 264-4 of this chapter or personally served upon the owner by delivering the notice to the owner or by delivering the notice to a person of suitable age and discretion at the owner's residence or place of business. The Commissioner's determination shall also be posted at the subject building and, to the extent possible, it shall also be posted conspicuously at each dwelling unit. Vacated dwelling units shall not be reoccupied until a rental dwelling unit registration certificate has been issued.
D. 
The notices provided under this section shall not be used to institute, or deemed to establish sufficient grounds for, a summary eviction proceeding under the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law.
A rental dwelling unit registration issued pursuant to this chapter shall expire one year after the date of its issuance, unless sooner revoked pursuant to § 264-10. Within 60 days prior to the expiration of a rental dwelling unit registration certificate, the owner shall make written application for a rental dwelling unit registration certificate in accordance with § 264-4 of this chapter. In no event shall a certificate be issued pursuant to this chapter remain in effect more than one year after the date of its issuance unless further extended by the Commissioner for sufficient cause.
A rental dwelling unit registration issued pursuant to this chapter is transferable to any person who has acquired ownership of a registered building for the unexpired portion of the one-year term for which it was issued, provided that an application to transfer such certificate is filed with the Commissioner within 30 days of title transfer and the dwelling units therein are in compliance with the housing code.
A. 
A rental dwelling unit registration certificate issued pursuant to this chapter may be revoked by the Commissioner for any one or more of the following reasons.
(1) 
Fraud, misrepresentation or a false statement as to a material fact in the application.
(2) 
A finding that a rental dwelling unit registration was issued in error and not in accordance with applicable law.
(3) 
A violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, including noncompliance with a notice of violation issued pursuant to § 264-15.
(4) 
The Commissioner, or his designated representative, determines that the rental dwelling unit does not substantially conform with this chapter or the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
[Added 12-23-2008, effective 1-2-2009]
B. 
Prior to such revocation, the Commissioner shall hold a hearing, after at least 10 days' notice of the time and place of the hearing provided to the owner. The Commissioner shall issue a written statement setting forth the reasons for the decision.
Every holder of a rental dwelling unit registration certificate shall:
A. 
Conspicuously post the certificate in a protected mounting in the public corridor, hallway or lobby of the building for which the certificate was issued. This posting shall be in a common entrance. If no common entrance exists, then posting shall be made at the entrance of each dwelling unit. In the alternative to such posting, the license shall be produced by the owner at the request of a tenant, a prospective tenant or upon demand of the Commissioner.
B. 
Conform with all other applicable state, county and City laws and ordinances on matters not specifically addressed in this chapter.
C. 
The rental agreement or lease for a dwelling unit regulated under this chapter must include a disclosure of the smoking policy for the premises on which the dwelling is located. The disclosure must state whether smoking is prohibited on the premises, allowed on the entire premises or allowed in limited areas on the premises. If the smoking policy allows smoking in limited areas on the premises, the disclosure must identify the areas on the premises where smoking is allowed.
[Added 2-16-2010, effective 3-1-2010]
A. 
The Commissioner shall review the fee schedule annually and recommend changes as he deems appropriate, to the Common Council.
[Amended 4-22-2005, effective 4-25-2005]
A. 
Any violation of this chapter by a person, firm, corporation or other entity shall be a violation punishable in accordance with the general penalty provisions under Buffalo Code § 1-15, with said penalties to be in addition to the revocation of a rental dwelling unit registration certificate issued under the provisions of this chapter. In addition, the annual registration fee will double 30 days after the due date has passed and a second invoice for payment has been sent first-class mail to the owner. In addition, a summons will be issued 60 days after the due date has passed and a fine in the amount of $75.00 will be imposed in addition to all outstanding registration fees and late charges. Furthermore, a notice to vacate may be issued and all tenants removed for failure to register a dwelling unit 30 days after the due date has passed and after notice to the owner and occupants by the Commissioner.
B. 
Notwithstanding the lack of a specific reference thereto, failure to comply with any section, provision or requirement in this chapter shall be a violation and shall be punishable by a fine or penalty of not more than $1,500 or by imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment, for each such offense and any other applicable state statutes. This chapter is a part of the City health, safety, housing, building, fire prevention and housing codes, and a violation thereof shall be deemed to be a violation for purposes of state statutes allowing escrow of rent to remedy violations. Any charges involving violations of this chapter may be brought before the Housing Part in Buffalo City Court.
C. 
Lead-based paint violations are subject to fines pursuant to § 137-7, Schedule of fines and penalties. In addition, upon a finding of existing lead-based paint violations by the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, the owner of the affected property must remediate said violation. Remediation is complete when a licensed lead inspector provides a letter of compliance for said property, or when a licensed lead risk assessor provides a one-year-letter of interim control for the property. Letters of interim control are valid for one year and may be renewed only once. In addition, the Commissioner of the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, or his designee, may determine that a lead-based paint violation is in compliance. The Department of Permit and Inspection Services may result in the revocation of the property's rental registration certificate.
[Added 10-18-2016]
[Amended 12-23-2008, effective 1-2-2009]
A. 
Upon the rental dwelling unit being registered, the owner of the rental dwelling unit consents to the inspection of the dwelling unit by the Commissioner or his designated representative. The Commissioner, or his designated representative, may make an inspection of the rental dwelling unit to determine whether or not such rental dwelling unit is in substantial compliance with this chapter and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. At the conclusion of said inspection, the Commissioner, or his designated representative, shall provide the owner, or the owner’s representative, at the inspection with a copy of the results of the inspection.
(1) 
For properties constructed prior to 1978, the owner of the rental dwelling unit consents to the inspection of the dwelling unit by the Commissioner or his designated representative for lead violations or hazards. Upon testing of paint in the property, any owner found to have a property with existing lead-based paint violations must remediate the violation according to provisions set forth in this chapter. Where violations or hazard are present, the rental dwelling unit registration certificate applicant must submit proof of completion of a local EPA Accredited Renovation, Repair and Painting Training Program in the time allotted by the Department of Permit and Inspection Services.
[Added 10-18-2016]
B. 
If the results of the inspection conducted pursuant to § 264-14A above demonstrate that the dwelling unit is in substantial compliance with this chapter and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, the owner of the dwelling unit shall be entitled to retain his or her rental dwelling unit registration certificate.
A. 
Whenever the Commissioner determines that a building or a dwelling unit contained therein is in violation of the housing code, he shall issue a notice of violation setting forth at a minimum:
(1) 
The location of the subject property;
(2) 
Specific violations of the housing code; and
(3) 
A reasonable time, not to exceed 60 days, for the correction of any violations.
B. 
Such notice may contain any additional information as determined by the Commissioner which may be necessary to achieve the goals of this chapter.
C. 
For purposes of this chapter, the Commissioner may grant additional time to correct violations of the housing code beyond 60 days for sufficient cause as determined by the Commissioner. Any such extensions shall be issued in writing by the Commissioner stating the reasons for such extension and otherwise in accordance with the requirements of this section.
D. 
The notice of violation may be mailed by first class mail to the address provided by the owner pursuant to § 264-4 of this chapter.
A. 
With respect to the dwelling unit which the tenant occupies, controls or uses, the tenant shall be responsible for the following standards.
(1) 
Occupancy limitations and the lawful use of a dwelling unit.
(2) 
Maintenance of the dwelling unit in a clean, safe and sanitary condition.
(3) 
Maintenance of plumbing, cooking and refrigeration equipment, appliances, fixtures and facilities contained in the dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary condition and providing reasonable care in the operation and use thereof.
(4) 
Keeping exits in the dwelling unit free and clear.
(5) 
Disposing of garbage and refuse into provided facilities in a sanitary manner and keeping the dwelling unit free and clear from garbage, refuse and debris.
(6) 
Keeping domestic animals and pets in an appropriate manner and under control.
B. 
To the extent that the owner can provide the Commissioner with competent evidence that tenants have not complied with the above standards or that the tenants have contributed to the existence of housing code violations at the property, the Commissioner may deem such circumstances to be sufficient cause to extend time for the correction of the violations pursuant to § 264-15 of this chapter.
A. 
Any person affected by any notice or order which has been issued under any provision of this chapter or of any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto may request and shall be granted a hearing on the matter before the Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services. Upon receipt of a written petition from such person, which petition shall contain a brief statement of the grounds therefor, the Commissioner shall hold a hearing, at which time such person shall be given an opportunity to show why such notice or order should be modified or withdrawn. No such hearing shall be required unless the petition therefor shall have been filed in the office of the Commissioner within five days after the date the notice or order was issued. On receipt of such petition, the Commissioner shall set a time and place for such hearing and shall give the petitioner written notice thereof. The hearing shall be commenced not later than 10 days after the date on which the petition was filed. After such hearing, the Commissioner may sustain, modify or withdraw the notice or order complained of by the petitioner, depending upon his finding as to whether the provisions of this chapter and of rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto have been complied with. After any such hearing, in the case of any notice or order suspending any permit required by this chapter, when such notice or order has been sustained by the Commissioner, such suspended permit shall be deemed to have been revoked. The proceedings at such hearing, including the findings and decision of the Commissioner, shall be reduced to writing and entered as a matter of public record in the Office of the Commissioner. Such record shall also include a copy of every notice or order issued in connection with the matter. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Commissioner may appeal therefrom to any court of competent jurisdiction under the procedures provided by the laws of this state.
B. 
No provision or requirement herein contained for a hearing shall in any way whatsoever affect or impair the right of the Commissioner to at any time bring such legal proceedings, actions or prosecutions as otherwise or elsewhere are permitted by law or ordinance.
C. 
Whenever the Commissioner finds that an emergency exists which requires immediate action to protect the public health, he may, without notice or hearing, issue an order reciting the existence of such an emergency and requiring that such action be taken as he deems necessary to meet the emergency. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately. Any person to whom such order is directed shall comply therewith immediately but, upon written petition to the Commissioner, shall be afforded a hearing as soon as possible. After such hearing, depending upon his finding as to whether the provisions of this chapter and the rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto have been complied with, the Commissioner shall continue such order in effect or modify or revoke it.
If a term, part or provision, section, subdivision or paragraph of this chapter shall be held unconstitutional, invalid or ineffective, in whole or in part, such determination shall not be deemed to affect, impair or invalidate the remaining terms, parts, provisions, sections, subdivisions and paragraphs.
The Commissioner is authorized to promulgate regulations consistent with the provisions of this chapter in order to carry out the objectives of this legislation.
The provisions of this chapter are not exclusive and are in addition to and do not supersede or preempt other remedies or provisions of the City, state, or federal laws and housing codes as may apply.
[Amended 4-22-2005, effective 4-25-2005; 6-14-2005, effective 6-24-2005]
A. 
Certificate issuance. The fee, to be submitted at the time of application, for the issuance of a rental dwelling unit registration certificate and the first year fee shall be $20 for a rental dwelling unit in a single-family dwelling and $40 for a two-unit rental dwelling.
B. 
Annual renewal fee. The owner of a rental dwelling unit shall pay an annual renewal fee of $10 for a single-unit rental dwelling and $20 for a two-unit rental dwelling, commencing on January 1, 2006, and payable each year thereafter. The owner remains obligated to pay such fee during ownership of the rental dwelling unit and shall pay any delinquencies therein before transferring all or any part of the ownership of said unit. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a new owner making application for a certificate is obligated, and shall be required, to pay all such current and delinquent annual fees with the application. All funds generated from the Rental Dwelling Unit Registration Ordinance shall be placed in a designated T&A account starting in the 2006-2007 fiscal year. The use of these funds shall be solely for the hiring of an additional staff person and/or necessary equipment for the Rental Dwelling Unit Registration Program in the Department of Permit and Inspection Services.
C. 
No fee for new buildings. There shall be no fee charged for the issuance of a rental dwelling unit registration certificate for new dwellings at the completion of their construction covered by a building permit.
D. 
Inspection fees. Every property owner shall pay a fee of $75, to be assessed against the property, for each inspection after the second inspection in which violations of a state or local building code are found, unless such fee is waived by the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication. Inspectors shall assess the fee, after consultation with the Chief Building Inspector or the Commissioner of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, when, in the evaluation of the inspector, the status of the violation has not progressed or been satisfactorily completed. The fee shall not be applicable to inspections ordered after the commencement of a court action.