Judge Orders Landlord’s Arrest for Dangerous Conditions

As well as ignoring court orders

HPD recently secured an arrest warrant and commitment to civil jail for Daniel Ohebshalom for allegedly failing to make hundreds of court-ordered repairs at a pair of Washington Heights properties. Tenants and HPD sued Ohebshalom to remove lead paint from apartment walls, fix crumbled ceilings, and get rid of mice and roaches throughout his two buildings. He was ranked as the city’s worst landlord by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams last year after he racked up more than 3,000 alleged housing code violations across his portfolio. A judge ordered him to be jailed for up to two months after he repeatedly ignored mandatory repairs at the two buildings for more than a year.

One level deeper: HPD first initiated litigation in 2021 after HPD’s Anti-Harassment Unit identified Ohebshalom’s Washington Heights buildings with significant violations. In January 2023, HPD placed both buildings in their Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), one of the agency’s strongest enforcement programs and accountability tools, to make emergency repairs and address longstanding issues. Over $48,000 in AEP fees were assessed against the property, and AEP conducted emergency repair work addressing conditions like leaks, mold, and self-closing doors.  

After Ohebshalom failed to comply with the AEP program, HPD filed additional litigation, seeking contempt, including jail time and civil penalties. Housing Court found the landlord in criminal and civil contempt of multiple court orders, consent orders, and interim agreements to improve conditions at the pair of Washington Heights buildings; and ultimately held that the city was entitled to $3,057,620 in civil penalties. 

The landlord skipped dozens of scheduled appointments to correct nearly 700 violations across the two buildings’ common areas and 42 apartments. According to the court, “The most striking factor informing the Court’s discretion is the duration of the contempt proceeding. The Court held Respondents in civil contempt as of February 2, 2023, more than thirteen months before this writing. Moreover, the sheer volume of extant hazardous and immediately hazardous violations bespeaks the extent of Respondents’ contempt.”

The bottom line: The judge ordered the New York City Sheriff’s Office to work with authorities in California, where Ohebshalom is believed to live, to arrest him and bring him to Manhattan for a 60-day jail stay. “The ongoing conditions that the tenants of the subject premises have had to endure, have remained uncorrected since November of 2022, at least sixteen months before this writing, and often longer,” the judge said in his order. The judge said Ohebshalom could be released if he makes the necessary repairs.