State Senator Tony Avella announced last Wednesday that the Department of State (DOS) will reinstate a cease-and-desist zone for residents of Bay Terrace, Auburndale, Bayside, College Point, Malba, Murray Hill, North Flushing and Whitestone.
The designation allows homeowners to join a list barring realtors from marketing to them with flyers, phone calls or door knocking.
“Though I wish that the cease-and-desist zone covered the entire borough of Queens, I think we have taken a very big step towards protecting homeowners from the predatory tactics of real estate agents that became a norm in our neighborhoods,” Avella said. “These new zones will also help to promote a better relationship between homeowners and real estate agents who work and live in the community.”
In 1989, the State Legislature designated all of Queens a cease-and-desist zone. But it was scaled back in 2009 and ultimately expired in 2014.
Shortly after, the practice of “intense solicitation” of homeowners to sell their homes started up again, the senator said. Civic leaders and homeowner associations complained endlessly about it, prompting Avella to push for DOS to hold three hearings in 2016.
Last May, real estate agents filled the auditorium at Bayside High School during a public hearing on the matter. Realtors spoke against a cease-and-desist zone, arguing that they have the right to advertise like any other industry.
Others said limiting their strategies would affect their livelihoods.
But civic leaders testified that they often receive two or three attempts a week in various forms. The tense meeting led Avella to criticize the realtors for infiltrating what was supposed to be a platform for local homeowners to share their concerns to state officials.
Avella said DOS officials considered the community’s testimony and agreed that “there is sufficient evidence to reinstate these important regulations.”
The agency will accept public comment for 45 days. If passed, the regulations would restrict a real estate broker from soliciting “the sale, lease or listing for sale or lease of residential property from an owner” who signed up on the list.
“The creation of these zones is a common sense solution to the aggressive real estate industry campaign to bully homeowners into thinking it is time to sell their home,” Avella said.
The new zone will expire on September 1, 2022. Avella has proposed legislation to designate all of Queens as a cease-and-desist zone and extend it from five years to a 10-year period.
“I look forward to working with the Department of State to expand the zone to provide relief for all of the residents of Queens who fall prey to aggressive real estate tactics,” he said.