By LINDA KRESTANOVA
After failing to fix hundreds of violations in their buildings, two landlords will not receive rent the city pays for tenants on public assistance, Public Advocate Letitia James announced on Thursday.
The rent would be withheld until the violations, which include mice and cockroach infestations, are cured.
After being warned of this potential result in May, six out of eight landlords responsible for “The Dirty Dozen,” 12 buildings with a sum of 2,081 violations, fixed up 76 percent of what needed improvement. The 1,194 cleared violations included broken windows, mold and leaks. The buildings house over 1,000 tenants.
The remaining two buildings and their landlords are being hit with the Spiegel Law, which has not been used since the 1980s.
The state law, passed in 1962, states that if conditions of a building prove dangerous to the health and safety of its tenants, the Human Resources Administration can halt rent assistance payments. With activating provisions of the law, the city will withhold up to $5,000 a month from the landlords.
Tenants cannot be evicted while the rent is withheld. The goal, according to James, is to prevent intentional neglect and planned evictions by the landlords, who “basically set up conditions so that individuals would leave their apartment.”
One of the buildings, 541 W. 150th St., run by its landlord Jay Weiss, has 155 violations, 59 of which are considered “immediately hazardous.” Keith Allan, who has been living in the building for 10 years, said that its conditions have a “profound effect on a person’s existence.”
“You can’t have people over,” Allen said. “You’re worried a piece of the ceiling might fall on their head.”
Agron Berisha, the landlord of 20 W. 190th St., has 84 violation throughout his building, 19 of which are deemed “hazardous.”
Should the landlords remain unresponsive, further action includes seeking penalties in court or appointing a qualified third-party administrator to manage the properties.
Photo by Linda Krestanova