NYC Council proposing bill to combat landlord negligence

Sakkas Cahn & Weiss

New Yorkers could probably find many examples to perfectly show the meaning of the term “slum lord.” Most of us have had at least one terrible housing rental experience, usually because landlords repeatedly fail to make necessary repairs and to perform routine maintenance.

Failure to make repairs is sometimes a strategy to drive out rent-stabilized tenants. Other times, it is just plain laziness. When repairs are not made, the best-case scenario is often a living space that looks rundown and forces tenants to do without certain amenities. The worst-case scenario involves tenants being injured or killed in preventable accidents or becoming victims of crime due to inadequate security.

Thankfully, the New York City Council is working to hold the city’s landlords more accountable for maintaining their properties. By proposing a bill called the Quality Housing Act, city council members are seeking to double the size of the Alternative Enforcement Program. Under the proposal, the city would also be allowed to fine landlords for repeated failures to correct identified violations.

City councilman Ritchie Torres explained why the city’s current building-code enforcement is inadequate. He said: “If you have a condition in your apartment you can call 311, [and the Housing Preservation and Development Department] will inspect it. It’s a little like a parking ticket without a fine. There’s no incentive for the landlord to correct or cure a [less serious] violation.”

In such populous city where housing is in precious supply, most renters feel like they have very little power. Unfortunately, this allows some landlords to sit back and collect rent money while failing to make their properties safe and livable. Hopefully, bills like the Quality Housing Act will help balance the scales and give regular New Yorkers the help they need to hold negligent landlords accountable.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Bill Proposes New Penalties for Landlords,” Laura Kusisto, May 13, 2014

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