Comptroller Proposes Roadmap to Legalize NYC’s Basement Apartments

Brad Lander’s Basement Resident Protection Law would create a “basement board” to oversee the conversions and ensure residents of these apartments—called accessory dwelling units or ADUs—have access to tenants’ rights and basic safety protections. It comes a year after rains from Hurricane Ida killed 11 New Yorkers in basement units.

Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of the Governor

Flooding in Queens following Hurricane Ida.

As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida approaches, tens of thousands of basements and cellars—units often converted into illegal apartments—are still at immediate risk of flooding, and that number will triple in the next 30 years, according to a report by New York City Comptroller Brad Lander shared with City Limits Monday.

The report proposes legalizing and registering rental units via a legislative roadmap modeled after a law New York State enacted in the 1980s to convert commercial and manufacturing units into legal residences.

Lander’s policy plan, the Basement Resident Protection Law, would create a “basement board” to oversee the conversions and ensure residents of these apartments—called accessory dwelling units or ADUs—have access to tenant’s rights, such as eviction protection. It would also help homeowners put in place basic safety features to protect tenants from floods and fires.

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