Monday, January 26, 2015

A Year After Suing Landlord, Still No Heat

New York Housing Court sounds like a disaster:

Two weeks ago, a city housing inspector visited an apartment on the fourth floor of 940 Prospect Place in Brooklyn and issued a violation to the landlord for inadequate heat. The visit was nothing new — since December 2013, residents of 940 and the adjoining building at 930 Prospect Place have made more than 100 complaints about lack of heat or hot water.

How does a simple heat complaint, confirmed by city housing inspectors, take more than a year to resolve?

For many tenants stuck in cold apartments, Housing Court is, on paper at least, the place where they can meet their landlord on equal footing. In practice, tenants and lawyers say, it can feel more like a black hole where complaints languish, city agencies lack enforcement powers and delay seems to be the rule.

[...] When a resident calls 311 with a heat complaint, the call goes to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which automatically notifies the landlord. Two or three days later, the agency is supposed to send an inspector to the apartment that called in the complaint. If the resident is at home when the inspector arrives, and if the apartment is cold at the time, the inspector can issue a violation, giving the landlord 24 hours to repair the condition. The agency issued 12,352 violations for heat and hot water in fiscal year 2014, roughly one for every 10 complaints.

[...] Violations alone do not mean penalties. Unlike city agencies that regulate parking or sanitation, the housing department cannot directly assess fines; instead, it must seek them in Housing Court. Even then, Mr. Henriquez of Make the Road said, civil penalties are usually reduced in negotiations between the landlord and the agency. “When landlords know that,” he said, “that incentivizes a culture of noncompliance.”

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2015/01/a-year-after-suing-landlord-still-no-heat.html

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