New York City’s Fight Against Tenant Harassment
By AnnMarie Santiago, Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement and Neighborhood Services
Protecting tenants is essential to our fight to make New York the fairest big city in America. No New Yorker should ever have to struggle to keep a roof over their heads or find an affordable place to call home. This administration has provided free legal services to over 250,000 low income New Yorkers, reduced eviction rates by 27%, issued over 2 million housing violations, increased inter-agency collaboration on enforcement, and taken a proactive, data-driven approach to rooting out bad landlords.
Every day, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development has hundreds of inspectors out in the field and a team of lawyers in court aggressively working to protect New Yorkers, and we are getting results. We use all tools at our disposal: we take landlords to court, we make emergency repairs, and we put worst landlords under the microscope.
HPD aggressively enforces the housing code with one goal in mind — ensuring all New Yorkers have the safe housing they deserve. Last year, HPD attempted more than 700,000 inspections and issued more than 522,000 violations. When landlords do not address the most hazardous violations, we step in and do the work to protect tenants. This year, HPD spent $10 million in construction and utility costs to conduct repairs or provide services in over 5,500 buildings.
HPD also puts problematic buildings under the inspection microscope in order to take bad landlords to task. Through the Alternative Enforcement Program, HPD takes actions against negligent owners. Since AEP’s inception, 1,851 buildings with 25,062 apartments have been discharged from the program, and more than $86 million in AEP and emergency repair program costs and inspection fees have been recovered by HPD.
When landlords fail to act, we take them to court. Our Housing Litigation Division also brings cases against owners who do not correct outstanding violations and, when necessary, seeks findings of contempt and jail time. HPD initiated over 7,000 Housing Court cases and collected $7 million in settlements and judgments in 2018. Through this work, we focus on finding the fastest way to get problems fixed for tenants.
We’ve introduced new programs to proactively address harassment. This includes expanding the Certification of No Harassment program and introducing a Speculation Watch List, both to serve as deterrents to property owners who prioritize profit over the health and safety of their tenants and to ensure that harassment faces consequences. And just a few months ago we announced the launch of the Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit. This unit, comprised of inspectors and lawyers, will work alongside our city-wide and city-state tenant taskforces to make sure bad landlords are held accountable for their actions.
From day one, protecting tenants has been a core part of our strategy to confront the affordable housing crisis. Working with the administration and City Council, we will continue to evolve our response to be more effective and ensure tenants are protected in their homes.