The Legal Department regularly advises missions and consulates on their rights and obligations as New York City property owners and renters. Along with the New York City Department of Buildings, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs has succeeded in effecting much greater compliance by foreign governments with local zoning, building safety, and other land-use regulations. Along with the City's Department of Finance, the Ofice has added certain foreign government-owned properties, heretofore incorrectly exempted (e.g., a government tourist office), to the City's tax roll. In these and other cases, the Legal Department seeks to promote the best interests of the City, while attempting to ensure that City policy is consistent with the principles of international law. The issue of residential housing for diplomats has received much attention from the Office in the last few years. Some landlords and co-op boards have adopted policies of rejecting all diplomats from their buildings, based solely on concerns related to diplomatic immunity and security. The legal staff intercedes with local landlords to address this problem by explaining in detail how an individual's immunity may affect the rights and obligations of the parties, and advises diplomats, when they do secure an apartment, on applicable rent stabilization and related laws.
Foreign governments face a number of complex issues when attempting to secure suitable space for these offices and official residences. In the rental arena, both commercial and residential, the Office reviews leases and advises the parties on the unique issues that arise when the lessee is a foreign government. In addition, a number of foreign governments have recently begun to purchase and/or construct properties in the City. The Office's involvement in the planning and execution of these transactions helps to ensure that foreign governments, which are typically exempt by treaty from the rules and regulations of local jurisdiction, comply with the City's fire safety, building, and zoning regulations. Office staff frequently serve as liaisons between the foreign government and its lawyers and architect on the one hand, and the Department of Buildings and the local community boards on the other. Relevant real estate tax exemption, as well as the various State and City "transactional" taxes have been analyzed by the City's Department of Finance (DOF) with the Office’s assistance to determine their applicability to these foreign governments. The Mayor’s Office for International Affairs stands ready to assist local landlords should problems arise with diplomatic tenants.