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Bill Targets Housing Offenders

Council To Landlords: Fix It Or Pay Price

The City Council voted last Wednesday, Jan. 9, on legislation to allow the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to issue orders to property owners requiring them to repair underlying conditions that lead to repeat violations.

Under the legislation (Intro. No. 967)-first proposed by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in her 2012 State of the City address- property owners must comply with an order or face penalties.

Underlying causes of housing violations can often go unidentified or unresolved, resulting in multiple violations of the same kind. Examples of these conditions include damaged roofs that cause water leaks and the presence of mold. Repeat violations, and the failure to correct an underlying condition related to a violation, can have a direct effect on a tenant’s quality of life, health and safety.

Currently, the HPD issues violations for observed conditions, such as water damage, mold or lack of heat or hot water. This bill would allow the agency to go one step further when it is evident that a root cause must be addressed in order to truly correct a noted violation which has persisted and remains uncorrected.

Under the legislation, an owner will have four months to comply with an underlying conditions order, and must submit documentation as required by HPD demonstrating compliance with the order. The HPD may grant a two-month extension period to complete the work.

If an owner fails to comply with an order, the agency may complete the work and seek civil penalties against the owner for lack of compliance. The civil penalty range for failure to comply with these orders would be $1,000 per unit affected by the order or a minimum of $5,000. “Quick fixes to cover up systematic structural problems aren’t acceptable -we’re talking about people’s homes,” said Quinn. “Purely cosmetic repairs only worsen conditions for tenants, putting their health, safety and well-being at risk. This legislation will empower HPD inspectors to treat the cause-not just the symptom-of repeat violations. Now, instead of simply painting over water damage or doing patchwork, landlords must repair the hole in the roof that’s causing it.”

“Intro. No. 967 will allow HPD to issue orders to property owners requiring them to correct underlying conditions within a certain time frame or risk penalties for non-compliance,” added Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings. “This bill is another example of the Council’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that New Yorkers live in the best housing conditions as possible.”

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