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NYC Public Advocate Pushes To Stop the Worst Landlords from Repeat Offenses with New Accountability Law

"The purpose of this bill is to make sure that the violations landlords receive are not persistently ignored," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.
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749 Lafayette Avenue, one of the properties owned by one of the worst landlords, Nathaniel Montgomery. Photo: Google Maps.

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams has advanced his bill to combat the practices of some of the worst landlords in New York City ahead of the release of the 2022 Worst Landlord Watchlist.

"The purpose of this bill is to make sure that the violations landlords receive are not persistently ignored," Williams said.

For the bill's hearing of the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings Dec. 6, he argued in support of Intro 583, a part of the Worst Landlord Accountability Act which is aimed at correcting and preventing disingenuous tactics used by some of those landlords to attempt to remove themselves from the list. 

In 2021, The New York City Housing Authority was the city’s worst landlord for the fourth year in a row. As of November 2021, there were 600,480 open work orders in NYCHA buildings across the city — an increase of over 121,600 from 2020.

The worst private landlord in New York City in 2021 was David Schorr, who had an average of 1,442 open violations across 17 buildings featured on the watchlist. Schorr’s buildings are primarily located in Harlem and Morningside Heights, with a number of buildings with violations in Brooklyn, including Bed-Stuy’s 29 Brooklyn Avenue.

"In putting together the Worst Landlord Watchlist, we found far too many instances of landlords failing to live up to their most basic responsibilities of being a steward for the housing of renters who call New York home," Williams said.

"In case after case, violation after unchecked violation, bad actors demonstrated an inability or an unwillingness to live up to their end of the bargain – and it's past time to put in place meaningful reforms to not just call out these actions, but to put a stop to them. This legislation is about preventing landlords from evading accountability and protecting their tenants from conditions which are physically unsafe or otherwise insecure."

Last year, three of the top five worst private landlords were in Brooklyn.

In the current system, landlords can often self-certify their own repairs without city verification. Under Intro 583, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development would maintain a certification of correction list, as well as, certify corrections of multiple violations with an inspection.

The bill would also increase penalties for failure to correctly certify. A landlord who fails to file a statement of registration or an amendment could have to pay between $500 and $1,000. Anyone willfully making a false certification of correction of a violation would have to pay between $500 and $2,500 for each violation falsely certified. Penalties would increase for hazardous violations of housing standards based on severity.

The Public Advocate noted in his statement for the committee, “As we soon move into the new year, it is critical that we take swift action to hold the worst landlords accountable. We need to invest the resources to stop them from handling these violations and fines as negligible, or the cost of doing business, and combat the notion that making profit is much more vital than their own tenants.”

Each year, the Public Advocate's office releases the Worst Landlord Watchlist, which spotlights the top 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in New York City as determined by widespread and repeated violations in buildings on the list.

Read the bill here, and the Public Advocate’s statement to the committee below.