Jumaane Williams announces bid for public advocate
Photo courtesy of Jumaane Williams

Broken ovens and stove tops, holes for rats and mice to come in, faulty faucets and a lack of heat in the winter.

These are just some of the issues Brooklyn tenants are facing that NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams wants fixed faster and with more transparency by landlords. And he’s brought forward new legislation to try to make sure it’s done.

On Thursday, Williams introduced two new bills to the City Council that would increase fines against landlords who don’t fix building code violations, and force them to address outstanding “immediately hazardous” violations within 24 hours.

The new legislation would make it harder for landlords to falsely claim repairs had been made. Photo: Brandon Nickerson/Pexels

“This legislation is about preventing landlords from evading accountability and protecting their tenants from conditions which are physically unsafe or otherwise insecure,” Williams said. 

The Office of the Public Advocate makes a point of naming and shaming negligent landlords.

Each year the office releases the Worst Landlord Watchlist, which spotlights the “top 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in New York City” as decided by the number of open housing code violations issued to their buildings. 

In 2019, the worst landlord was Jason Korn, a landlord who owns multiple Brooklyn properties with violations across Flatbush, Crown Heights, Prospect Leffert Gardens, Marine Park and Bensonhurst. Korn has 43 open Department of Buildings violations and an average of 2877 Department of Housing Preservation and Development violations. 

NYC public advocate Jumaane Williams. Photo: Jessy Edwards for the BK Reader.

“In putting together the Worst Landlord Watchlist, we found far too many instances of landlords failing to live up to their most basic responsibilities of being a steward for the housing of renters who call New York home,” Williams said.

Within the current system, landlords were often able to self-certify their own repairs without city verification, his office said.

One of the new bills would fix this by making the Department of Housing Preservation and Development maintain a certification of correction list and stop any listed landlord from certifying correction of violations in multiple dwellings without an inspection.

It would also increase fines on landlords falsely claiming they had fixed violations.

The other bill seeks to make sure tenants get urgent issues dealt with fast. If made law, it would require the HPD to communicate with the tenant reporting “immediately hazardous” violations within 12 hours, and perform an inspection within 24 hours.

The new bill will require the HPD to respond faster if there are holes in the walls or floors for rodents to enter. Photo: Pexels

These violations include having a broken oven, stove top or fridge, faulty water faucets or sink, a toilet that doesn’t flush, a lack of heat in winter and holes where rodents can enter the home.

New York State Tenants & Neighbors Executive Director Yolande Cadore said, if passed, the laws would greatly improve housing conditions for thousands of New York City renters.

“Forcing tenants to stay-at-home in poor living conditions should not be tolerated and this bill is a giant step in the right direction to protect tenants and keep every New York City resident safe and healthy.”

Housing Justice for All Coalition Campaign Manager Cea Weaver said the city had to do more to hold bad landlords accountable.

“This legislation is a strong step forward to making the Worst Landlords List a formidable tool to do just that.”

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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