Council Targets Root Causes of Housing Violations


On Wednesday, the City Council was scheduled to vote on legislation to allow the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to issue orders to property owners requiring them to repair underlying conditions that lead to repeat violations. Property owners will have to comply with an order or face penalties.

Underlying causes of housing violations — damaged roofs that cause water leaks and the presence of mold — often go unidentified or unresolved, resulting in multiple violations of the same kind. Failure to correct an underlying condition can have a direct effect on a tenant’s quality of life, health and safety.

Under the legislation, an owner will have four months to comply with an underlying conditions order, with the possibility of a two-month extension.

If an owner fails to comply with an order, the agency may complete the work and seek civil penalties — $1,000 per unit affected by the order, or a minimum of $5,000 — against the owner for lack of compliance.

“Quick fixes to cover up systematic structural problems aren’t acceptable — we’re talking about people’s homes,” said Speaker Christine Quinn. “Purely cosmetic repairs only worsen conditions for tenants, putting their health, safety and well-being at risk. This legislation will empower HPD inspectors to treat the cause — not just the symptom — of repeat violations. Now, instead of simply painting over water damage or doing patchwork, landlords must repair the hole in the roof that’s causing it.”

“As any tenant who has had a leaky roof or mold problem in their apartment can attest, it takes more than a coat of paint to solve a serious problem,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “The bill we are voting on today sends a clear message to landlords.”