New housing bills hope to protect tenants, crack down on bad landlords
To start off the new year, a set of new bills were introduced which hope to improve the lives of tenants throughout the city — and make sure bad landlords pay.
Public Advocate Letitia James announced Tuesday the launch of two pieces of legislation — the “Nuisance Abatement” and “No Eviction by Construction” bills — aimed to help protect residents and crack down on irresponsible landlords.
The announcement follows James’ Worst Landlords Watchlist, a database released last year highlighting terrible behavior by landlords throughout the city and holding them accountable for their actions.
“Our Worst Landlords Watchlist continues to demonstrate the scale of this crisis, but our city needs stronger authority to protect vulnerable tenants and sanction bad behavior,” James said. “These important tenant protection bills will send a powerful message to all landlords that dangerous housing violations will not be tolerated anywhere in New York City.”
Through the “Nuisance Abatement” bill, the city’s corporation counsel will be given the authority to bring legal action on the ground of a housing-based nuisance — including unsanitary conditions, improper ventilation and overcrowding of occupants. The nuisances are defined to be “whatever is dangerous to human life or detrimental to health.”
The “No Eviction by Construction” bill will call for the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) to deny building permits to owners of buildings with a certain number of unaddressed hazardous violations of housing maintenance or construction codes.
Permits that look to correct any Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and DOB violations will be exceptions to the bill.
“Prohibiting landlords who fail to correct hazardous conditions from obtaining building permits is a fitting punishment,” said Ellen Davidson, staff attorney for nonprofit The Legal Aid Society — which offers legal services to low-income New Yorkers. “Both bills would provide added protections for tenants and would ensure that New York City’s resources are properly utilized to enable tenants to live in safe and decent conditions.”
In her 2015 Worst Landlords Watchlist — put together with data from HPD and DOB, including violations through September 2015 — the public advocate listed 100 of the worst landlords in New York City.
Making the top of the list was a Bronx landlord — with 11 buildings and a total of 720 units under his care — who had 2,369 violations when the list was released.
Currently, based on data from HPD, that landlord has 68 violations open — five reported after the list came out and include not providing hot water to some apartments.
“Too many New Yorkers across the five boroughs are suffering in decrepit apartments, while their landlords cheat the system and refuse to uphold the most basic housing rights. It is time to hold these negligent landlords accountable,” James said.
For current status of violations or building information, tenants or building owner can visit either the HPD or DOB websites.