Four Landlords Owe City Nearly $500K for Lead Safety Violations

Mayor Adams recently announced successful enforcement actions against nearly 3,500 health and safety violations in more than 5,000 apartments. An agreement between the city and four major property owners and their companies has resulted in almost $500,000 in civil penalties and compelled the property owners to resolve all outstanding violations, and forced compliance with Local Law 1 of 2004 — the New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. 

Local Law 1 requires property owners to take proactive steps to prevent exposure to lead-based paint, including testing and abatement for lead paint at unit turnover, to determine where children under 6 live in the building, and to do abatement or remediation in units where children under 6 spend at least 10 hours a week.

The backdrop: The city has been making a concerted effort to protect tenants, especially children, from lead-based paint in their homes. Earlier this year, the Adams administration released a report, “Taking the Lead on Lead,” which details efforts to detect and prevent lead exposure in the city and commits city agencies to coordinate with one another to reach a city-wide goal of being lead-free. 

Under the city’s new strategy, the city is investing $1.4 billion in capital funds for lead paint abatement, and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is testing more than 70,000 apartments under the city’s new, more protective threshold. For New Yorkers in private homes, HPD has expanded the application of Local Law 1 to include rental units in one- and two-family homes, as well as apartments where children under 6 years old spend more than 10 hours per week (as opposed to just locations where they reside).

And last month, the City Council passed two more lead-related bills to track objections made for lead violations and included lead found in common spaces in buildings with young children to also qualify for an immediately hazardous violation. 

One level deeper: The city’s agreements with the owners of four large portfolios of residential buildings require the owners to promptly bring their properties into compliance with Local Law 1 and other applicable laws and codes, in addition to paying civil penalties for past code violations of Local Law 1. Violations include failure to remediate peeling lead paint, failure to comply with annual notice and annual investigation requirements, failure to abate lead-based paint upon tenant turnover, and failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements.

The four landlords have paid the following penalties: Ken Nasab, with over 882 apartments, paid $98,000; David Kleiner, with over 748 apartments, paid $112,000; Steven Finkelstein, with over 1,043 apartments, paid $98,000; and Bashkim Celaj, with over 2,474 apartments, paid $165,000.

For the next three years, all four owners must demonstrate ongoing compliance with Local Law 1 requirements including those for annual and lease notices, remediation and abatement, apartment turnovers, and turnover remediation. The owners would face legal action including court-ordered repairs and the possible issuance of tens of millions of dollars in additional penalties if they fail to comply with the agreements. The full agreements can be read here.