NYC Sues Landlord with over 1,900 violations

New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against Moshe Piller, an owner who has amassed more than 1,900 violations across 15 rent-stabilized buildings he owns throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Piller is ranked number 28 on the NYC public advocate’s 2021 “Worst Landlord Watchlist.” The city’s lawsuit seeks to compel Piller to repair his properties or face tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties.

One level deeper: The lawsuit focuses on Piller’s most serious violations and activities. The suit also alleges that when applying for work permits, Piller failed to certify that his buildings contained rent-regulated tenants. All but six of the 927 units identified in the complaint are rent stabilized.

Some violations constitute public nuisances, such as work performed without a permit or repeated failures to correct immediately hazardous conditions at the premises, which pose additional risks to tenants. These dangerous conditions and violations include, among others:

  • Serious elevator safety conditions;
  • Unsafe electrical wiring;
  • Work without a permit, including the installation of unlawful electric, gas, and plumbing lines;
  • Lead-based paint hazards;
  • Failure to make multiple doors self-closing to contain a fire;
  • Storage of combustible materials and other fire hazards;
  • Vacate order on cellar and laundry rooms that were illegally converted into five single-room occupancy units, with one unit having no secondary means of egress in the event of a fire;
  • Broken doors that should be self-closing to contain fires;
  • Illegal partitions to create additional apartments or rooms;
  • Façade violations, including cracked masonry and a leaning parapet wall; and
  • Mold and bedbug infestations.

The context: The New York City Law Department develops tenant protection cases in close cooperation with the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants (MOPT). MOPT then works in partnership with the numerous city agencies charged with inspecting for code violations, including HPD, DOB, DOHMH, FDNY, the Department of Sanitation, and the Department of Environmental Protection.

The lawsuit is part of the city’s increased enforcement efforts against building owners who put tenants at risk by violating city laws and codes. In early March, for example, HPD announced that it increased enforcement at 250 apartment buildings in the five boroughs that collectively accumulated almost 40,000 open Housing Maintenance Code violations. These buildings were placed in the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), which aims to hold bad landlords accountable and improve living conditions for tenants.