Rent withheld at two violation-saddled buildings

Rent withheld at two violation-saddled buildings

Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James.
Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James.

There’ll be no checks in the mail.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James have announced that the city is withholding rent payments for tenants on public assistance in two buildings where the landlords have failed to resolve hundreds of violations.

The landlords are Jay Weiss, at 541 West 150 Street in Manhattan, and Agron Berisha, at 20 West 190th Street in the Bronx.

In May, leveraging the Spiegel Law, the city threatened to withhold rent payments on 12 buildings — labeled by de Blasio as “The Dirty Dozen” — with a combined total of 2,081 code violations, the most serious of which included the presence of mold, leaks, broken windows, and missing window guards.

The city’s action has resulted in 1,194 of the violations being cleared since May in 10 of the 12 buildings, de Blasio said.

“It’s simple, when you pay the rent, you should get a decent place to live,” stated de Blasio. “We are hitting unscrupulous landlords who refuse to repair their buildings where it hurts the most — their wallets. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to force property owners to follow the law, to clear housing code violations, and to ensure that every tenant in New York City has a safe home that they can afford.”

Landlords Weiss and Berisha made some repairs since May but still left a substantial number of violations uncorrected, de Blasio said.

As a result, the city is stopping rent payments, totaling $4,710.42 a month, for the tenants receiving public assistance starting on December 1.

The Spiegel Law is a 1962 piece of legislation permitting the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) to withhold rent payments for tenants on public assistance if conditions in the building are considered “dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to life and health.”

The Spiegel Law permits the city to withhold rent payments.
The Spiegel Law permits the city to withhold rent payments.

Under the law, landlords cannot evict tenants when the HRA withholds rent.

All of the owners of the “Dirty Dozen” buildings announced in May were on the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord Watchlist.

“New York City will no longer bankroll landlords who force their tenants to live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions,” said James. “Over one thousand tenants are already living in drastically improved buildings due to our actions six months ago, and we will not stop until every New Yorker is living in a safe and decent home.”

In May, the eight owners of the “Dirty Dozen” buildings received a letter from HRA notifying them that the Spiegel Law was being invoked against them. They were directed to contact the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) within 15 days to request a re-inspection and Dismissal of Violations, which is an official confirmation that the conditions were corrected.

Six owners of 10 of the buildings reduced the number of total violations at the properties by 76 percent, from a combined total of 1,559 to 365, according to HPD.

The city will continue to monitor these buildings to ensure that the remaining violations are cleared, de Blasio said.


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