HPD Settles with Building Owner Over Harassment and Violations
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) recently announced a major settlement agreement with a Brooklyn-based landlord who has topped the NYC Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord Watchlist two years in a row.
As part of the settlement, the landlord agreed to resolve outstanding building violations and end tenant harassment in six buildings impacting 388 households in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The owner agreed to pay $235,000 in civil penalties, correct all outstanding housing code violations within 90 days, and comply with the city’s tenant harassment laws.
The context: The Worst Landlord's Watchlist is released annually by the Office of the New York City Public Advocate. The list is based on data gathered from the Department of Buildings (DOB) and HPD. The watchlist features owners who have the most violations relative to the number of apartments they own. The list is intended to boost tenant awareness as well as pressure owners to fix up their buildings.
This settlement follows a lengthy investigation conducted by HPD’s Anti-Harassment Unit (AHU) and Division of Code Enforcement spanning six buildings. Established in 2019, the AHU identifies and investigates buildings where conditions likely constitute harassment. The unit has initiated litigation against 90 buildings. For cases including harassment claims, AHU attorneys have secured more than $680,000 in civil penalties and over $100,000 in rent credits for tenants. AHU has obtained 32 court orders to correct violations and end harassment deriving from building conditions for almost 1,000 households.
A property owner's failure to correct dangerous conditions or frequent disruptions of, or failure to supply, water, heat, gas, or electric service may constitute harassment. And HPD can investigate claims of harassment due to maintenance issues.
The bottom line: HPD’s investigation spanned four buildings in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan under the landlord's ownership in which hundreds of violations were documented over 35 site visits. The investigation established a pattern of gross building neglect resulting in unsafe conditions, such as infestation of vermin including roaches and mice, mold, lead-based paint, and water leaks.
The investigation also found that the landlord engaged in a pattern of false certification of the correction of violations. HPD will continue to monitor the buildings for compliance with the settlement agreement while it maintains the option to seek additional penalties in court if the violations are not corrected on time.