City Council Bill Punishes Most Negligent Landlords

Mandates More Building Repairs

Legislation to preserve affordable housing units and increase penalties for negligent landlords was introduced in the City Council following a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall last Wednesday, May 14.

If enacted, the Quality Housing Act-supported by City Council Member Antonio Reynoso-will assist Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of preserving 120,000 affordable units across New York City’s five boroughs. The legislation would strengthen enforcement of the housing maintenance code and stiffen penalties for landlords that violate the law .”In gentrifying areas like Bushwick, Brooklyn, landlords are increasingly turning to tactics of disinvestment in their properties to displace rent-stabilized tenants from their homes,” Reynoso said.

Legislation on the state level has already been introduced by State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan that would make sabotage of regulated rentals a crime in New York State. Introduced last month, S.6941 would increase tenant protections by making the crime of landlord sabotage of rent regulated units, a class D felony.

As rental prices continue to rise, unscrupulous landlords have gutted apartments in building to get the existing lower-income tenants out. Once they are gone, the landlord will make renovations in an effort to attract market-rate renters willing to pay thousands more than the previous tenants were paying in rent.

The bills will help strengthen the powers of the Department of Preservation and Development (HPD). This city agency can then force landlords to make repairs or fine landlords for severe housing code violations.

“Specifically, the Quality Housing Act would penalize landlords who fail repeat inspections of the same violation,” a press release announcing the bills read, in part.

The HPD alternative enforcement program would not include “assessment of additional fees on buildings already included,” but building owners not already in hot water would accrue fines and liens on their property.

“Expansion of the Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP) through the Quality HousingAct will help the city intervene in more of these situations, make necessary repairs and force the landlords to pay,” Reynoso said in a statement.

“I am proud to patner with Council Member Ritchie Torres in this package of code-enforcement legislation that will deliver for our families,” Reynoso said.

The act will also double the size of HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program to 400 buildings by the start of 2015. The HPD Alternative Enforcement Program was begun in 2007 as a means of forcing negligent landlords to make repairs and fix violations.

Landlords owning multiple buildings are included in the AEP based on class B hazardous and class C immediately hazardous violations. If owners do not clear up the violations in four months time, an order to correct is sent and if they continue not to comply, HPD will hire an independent contractor to make the repairs and bill the landlord the full amount.

If landlords don’t pay the repair bills, HPD can enforce tax liens against their properties.

City Council Member Ritchie Torres, and non-profits Make the Road New York, Real Affordability for All and the Urban Justice Center all support the legislation.

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