Streams

New Website Makes Tracking Deadbeat Landlords Easier

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fu Ko Poon lives in a small Chinatown apartment without a working refrigerator or oven. The ceiling is yellow from water damage. For five years, the 74-year-old didn't even have electricity and had to light candles at night.

“I feel like I am the poorest New Yorker,” Fu says through a translator.

Today the city’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, unveiled a new website that will help residents like Fu hold delinquent landlords accountable for unsafe and unsanitary conditions. New York City’s Worst Landlords Watch List allows residents to look up their building and landlord to see the number of violations they have racked up.

de Blasio says landlords get away with neglecting their tenants because it’s easy to ignore violations. “When a landlord gets a violation for a health and safety problem, they ignore it in many cases, and then they ignore it again, and they ignore it again,” he says. “We can't have that kind of consequence. They have to know they will be held accountable.”

de Blasio says city agencies should stop doing business with the landlords he calls “bad actors.” He also thinks state legislation should be enacted to stiffen penalties for landlords and to make them automatic. “When you or I get a parking ticket, we have to pay. If we don’t pay, that penalty goes up and up,” he says.

That’s how it should work for bad landlords as well, de Blasio suggests.

Instead, landlords skirt the law until they are taken to court, and so the violations and unsafe living conditions accumulate. Rodent infestations, lead paint, rotting floors and ceilings, leaks, no hot water, broken pipes, mold so bad it causes asthma. New Yorkers living in buildings operated by the worst landlords in the city have seen it all.

Christopher Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, says dilapidated buildings like 197 Madison, where Fu Ko Poon lives, are eerily similar to a nearby building that burned down in massive fire just a few months ago.

“It’s the same thing where the wiring are not there. Hallways were never painted. You have roaches,” he says. “The ceiling is falling apart—literally. You know, people are actually using a bucket to catch water.”

That nearby fire killed an elderly man and displaced 200 people. Kui says many buildings owned by the worst city landlords pose a similar risk.

You can search for a building or landlord here.

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Comments [2]

char from NYC

Isn't this what HPD's website is for? That is public information and you can look up any property's violations and easily infer when a property is being neglected. How is this going to make building owners anymore accountable? The problem is the city's overwhelmed and inefficient housing departments.
In response to the above comment, could we please not scapegoat low-income immigrants? Quality, affordable housing in New York is a very complex issue and to simplify it by saying it's the tenants' fault for overcrowding is not only wrong, but unhelpful. And perhaps we should think about why people are living that way, not necessarily because they want to but because it is becoming impossible to maintain a healthy household here without making at least $40,000 a year, which is not a reality for most people.

Aug. 31 2010 12:45 PM
Judy from NYC

Yes there are many deadbeat landlords but there are also many great landlords whom have improve the quality of living for their tenants and yet have met with protest, defacing of the building that the tenants themselves live in, and to illegal sublets! Such as in the picture of Fu, your wonderful victim of a tenant, have you noticed the bunk beds behind her?!! are there 2 more bunk beds on the other side of the room? That is what your CROPPED picture is not showing. Everyone at the Asians for Equality knows how the tenants sublet and divide their apt, rent it out by the night/week to 10-16 people in one small bedroom apt, all to make a profit from their rent stabilized apt. This is such a scam and a joke that you as a reporter only report and bag on deadbeat landlords yet do not report on the abuses of the rent stabilization.

Aug. 31 2010 08:40 AM

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