HPD Sharpens Enforcement Against NYC's 250 Worst Apartment Buildings
For the 16th year, HPD has announced its list of the most poorly maintained apartment buildings in New York City. As a result of placement on the list, there will be increased enforcement against these 250 buildings through HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP). The AEP was established in 2007 with the NYC Safe Housing Law (Local Law No. 29 of 2007). This law called for an annual list of different multiple dwellings with high counts of the most serious building code violations based on a broad set of criteria, including paid or unpaid emergency repair charges. Additional financing in 2014 allowed for an increase in the number of buildings in the annual round, from 200 to 250 buildings targeted a year. The funding allowed for increased AEP staff and an increase in emergency repairs that can be made by HPD.
The AEP is directed at buildings that have recent violations, which suggest that the owner is failing to provide basic standard of living in the buildings and a targeted intervention is required to protect the health and safety of the New Yorkers who live there. Each year, HPD selects a new round of buildings for AEP with excessive housing code violations and with mounting costs related to emergency repairs completed by HPD.
Round 16 Buildings
The building owners on this year’s list face additional oversight and pressure to address nearly 39,000 open violations and repay $3.4 million in emergency repairs. Round 16 of AEP includes 33 buildings in Manhattan representing 733 homes; 75 buildings in the Bronx representing 2,006 homes; 117 buildings in Brooklyn representing 1,605 homes; and 25 buildings in Queens representing 537 homes.
Open housing code violations in these buildings include 10,428 for immediately hazardous conditions such as mold, evidence of rodents, lead-based paint, and inoperable self-closing doors. Another 21,081 violations are for other hazardous conditions such as leaks or holes in the plaster or drywall.
AEP holds property owners responsible for fixing major problems by increasing oversight and pressure on owners to act quickly to improve conditions. Many buildings are discharged from the program within a few months when owners are responsive and conduct repairs and address violations. However, when a building owner doesn’t address violations within the first four months of the program, the owner can face significant fees and Orders to Correct.
Selection criteria. The selection criteria for AEP are set forth in the law and include the number of class "B" hazardous and class "C" immediately hazardous Housing Maintenance Code violations and the dollar value of emergency repair charges incurred as a result of the work performed by HPD.
To be selected for this year’s list, buildings with 15 or more units must have a ratio of three or more open class B and class C violations per dwelling unit issued in the past five years, and paid or unpaid emergency repair program (ERP) charges equal to or more than $2,500 incurred in the past five years.
Buildings with between six and 14 units must have a ratio of five or more class B and class C violations per dwelling unit issued in the past five years and paid or unpaid ERP charges equal to or less than $5,000 incurred in the past five years.
The buildings selected must be ranked so that those with the highest paid or unpaid ERP charges in the past five years are selected first. And no more than 25 buildings with fewer than six units can be selected.
If there aren’t enough buildings that meet the above criteria, HPD may select the remainder of the buildings from those that have six or more units that have a ratio of four or more open class B or class C violations per dwelling unit issued in the past five years. The buildings selected must be ranked so that those with the highest number of open hazardous and immediately hazardous violations issued in the past five years are selected first.
Building discharge from AEP. To be discharged from the program, an owner must act affirmatively to demonstrate that conditions at the property are improving. Owners must pay for any outstanding charges related to emergency repairs or enter a payment agreement with the city to be discharged from AEP. The owner must perform work to correct:
- All heat and hot water violations;
- All class C violations related to mold;
- A minimum of 80 percent of class B violations related to mold;
- A minimum of 80 percent of violations related to vermin; and
- A minimum of 80 percent of all other class B and C violations.
- If an AEP Order to Correct is issued and requires system replacements, such as a roof or heating plant replacement, the owner must perform the required system replacements;
- If there’s an infestation, the owner must also submit a pest management plan to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene;
- The owner must pay all outstanding fees and charges, including liens, for inspections and work performed by HPD or enter into an agreement with the Department of Finance to pay such charges and liens; and
- The owner must submit a current and valid registration statement.
Orders to Correct. The AEP Order to Correct is an Administrative Order that will list the underlying conditions that the owner must correct. The AEP Order to Correct will be mailed to the owner, posted at the building, and filed with the County Clerk’s Office.
Orders to Correct may require the owner to replace building systems and address most of the violations, including all heat and hot water violations and at least 80 percent of hazardous mold and pest violations. If the owner doesn’t comply with the AEP Order to Correct and doesn’t correct the underlying conditions, HPD may hire a contractor to make the repairs and will bill the owner. Failure to pay the bill may result in a lien being placed against the property.
AEP fees. By law, owners who have been notified of participation in the AEP are subject to fees for any inspection, reinspection, or any other action taken by HPD while the building is in the program. Owners in the program are subject to the following fees:
- $1,000 per building for each reinspection performed upon application by an owner for dismissal of violations within the first four months after notification.
- For a building-wide inspection, monitoring of repair work, and reassessment of a building the fee is $500 per dwelling unit every six months, beginning on the date of the building-wide inspection, with a maximum total fee of $1,000 per dwelling unit during participation in the AEP.
- $200 for any complaint inspection performed in the subject property that results in the issuance of a class B or C violation.
- $100 for each re-inspection pursuant to a certification of correction of violation(s) submitted to HPD where HPD finds one or more violations haven’t been corrected.
Failure to pay these fees may result in a lien or liens to be filed against the subject property pursuant to Housing Maintenance Code §27-2153(q).
Avoiding AEP Participation
Owners can avoid AEP participation by properly maintaining buildings, submitting a current and valid property registration to HPD, and correcting and certifying all HPD violations. If you have a violation whose certification deadline has passed, you may file a Dismissal Request form (www.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/services/dismissal-request-form.pdf) with your Borough Service Center for a fee or seek a Violation Reissuance (www.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdfs/services/violation-reissuance.pdf), which is a free certification program.
City Council Passes
Worst Landlord Accountability Act
The New York City Council recently passed Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ Worst Landlord Law, which hikes financial penalties for various housing violations and creates a new watchlist for buildings whose owners self-certify that hazardous violations have been resolved, but lie about it. The law calls for up to $1,000 for each violation falsely certified as resolved, in addition to daily fines per violation.
Also, starting in 2025, HPD would be required to identify 100 buildings annually based on criteria such as the number of hazardous or immediately hazardous violations that have been falsely certified as corrected. This list is separate from the existing “Worst Landlords List” maintained each year by the public advocate’s office, which names the 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in the city based on building conditions. Any owner on the certification of correction watchlist would be prohibited from certifying correction of any violation in a multiple dwelling unless HPD has attempted at least two re-inspections, or those violations are excluded from the calculation for identifying the 100 buildings. An earlier bill would have mandated a stricter re-inspection regimen.
This bill, currently sent to the mayor’s desk for signature, is part of a pair of measures pushed by the public advocate, the second of which would require HPD to respond more quickly to hazardous and immediately hazardous complaints. However, that one has not yet made it to a vote.