The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) today launched a new website feature that will allow New Yorkers to check housing litigation cases initiated by HPD or in which HPD is a partyfor any registered residential building. Through HPD's website at www.nyc.gov/hpd, New Yorkers can currently research all open housing code violations, registration information, emergency repairs in progress, status of complaints to 311 and other information. Now they can also review pending cases brought in Housing Court since August 2006 after entering the building’s address on the “Complaint, Violation and Registration Information” look-up, located on the right column of the HPD website’s homepage www.nyc.gov/hpd. Once on the record page, they should click on “Litigation / Case Status”located on the left column. Some cases and applications filed before August 2006 are also noted.
HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan said, "Allowing residents and building owners to research housing litigation online demonstrates HPD’s commitment to increase access to information. Mayor Bloomberg has made a commitment to transparency in government and this new web feature will give New Yorkers more information about how their government is working for them. It is an important step forward in our efforts to make both tenants and landlords aware of their rights and responsibilities and to enable them to better use the city’s housing maintenance code enforcement services. Well-maintained, quality housing is a mainstay of Mayor Bloomberg's $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan to fund the rehabilitation and construction of 165,000 apartments and homes over ten years. The Plan is working: according to the US Census, housing maintenance conditions across the city are the best on record."
Owners of residential buildings are required by law to maintain apartments in habitable condition and provide tenants with heat during the winter heat season (October 1 through May 31) and hot water 365 days a year. The housing quality standards contained in the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law and the New York City Housing Maintenance Code are enforced by HPD's Division of Code Enforcement. If a building owner fails to maintain his building’s apartments and provide essential services, tenants may report the condition to the City's Customer Service Center at 311, which can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK. For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The 311 Customer Service Center is open 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. Attorneys in HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) within the Office of Preservation Services bring cases to enforce compliance with the City’s housing quality standards. Landlords who refuse to fix their buildings face legal action, fines and even jail time. HPD has over 45 attorneys in its Housing Litigation Division. In FY 2007, they initiated 13,802 cases and collected $4,523,124 in fines related to violations. If a building owner fails to provide heat and hot water during the winter or has a serious history of flagrantly disregarding obligations to provide service to tenants, HPD may sue the building owner in Housing Court. In FY 2007, HPD sued 2616 landlords and collected $1,614,340 in heat fines to compel them to make repairs.
A tenant can also bring a case against a building owner in Housing Court to get an order to correct the conditions. This case is called an HP Action or Housing Part Action. HP Actions are lawsuits brought by tenants or groups of tenants against building owners to force them to make repairs and provide essential services, like heat and hot water. In an HP Action, a judge can order the building owner to correct the violations.
The new online housing litigation case status tool will allow users to learn about the litigation case type, the date the case was opened, the current status and if there are any outstanding judgments. If the Court issues a judgment against the owners of a building awarding civil penalties to HPD and the owners do not pay the amount due, HPD undertakes a variety of methods to collect the money owed. The online tool is also accompanied by a glossary of terms in order to better help users navigate the legal information contained in the report. The glossary includes detailed descriptions of building classes, violation codes and name of most common litigation cases.
Some of the cases brought by HPD’s attorneys in Housing Court are:
- Heat and hot water cases: Cases in which HPD seeks an order to restore and maintain heat and hot water at a residential building and seeks civil penalties.
- Comprehensive cases: Cases in which HPD seeks the correction of all outstanding violations in a building and/or civil penalties for owners’ failure to timely certify correction of violations and/or for failure to file a Multiple Dwelling Registration.
- False Certifications: Cases in which HPD seeks civil penalties against landlords who have falsely certified to HPD that violations were corrected when they had not been.
- Access Warrant: HPD commences cases seeking access warrants when the owner has denied access to HPD inspectors and/or contractors and crews sent by HPD to inspect and/or to repair conditions in a residential building.
- 7A cases: Cases in which HPD seeks the appointment of an administrator to manage and collect rent in a building based on conditions or acts dangerous to life, health or safety, harassment and/or deprivation of services.
In addition, HPD reviews applications for Certifications of No Harassment. Before obtaining a permit from the Department of Buildings to demolish or reconfigure some buildings, including single room occupancy multiple dwellings and some multiple dwellings in several zoning districts, the owner must obtain a Certification of No Harassment (“CONH”) from HPD. The owner submits an application and HPD investigates and determines whether to issue a CONH. If HPD determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that harassment of tenants occurred, a hearing is held before the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings ("OATH"). After OATH issues its findings and recommendation, HPD determines whether to issue a CONH. In some cases, HPD may deny the application without a hearing based upon the determinations in prior administrative or judicial proceedings. A finding of harassment prevents the owner from obtaining certain types of demolition and alteration permits for three years in the case of single room occupancy multiple dwellings and permanently (unless the owner complies with an affordable housing requirement) in the case of other properties.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development's mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers. The department is the nation's largest municipal housing development agency and is implementing Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. The New Housing Marketplace Plan is the largest municipal affordable housing effort in the nation's history. HPD also encourages the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.