Joel Loutan, Owner of 1514 East 172nd Street, Ordered to Pay Civil Penalties and Be Remanded to Jail Until Violations Issued by HPD are Corrected
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua announced that Mr. Joel Loutan, the owner of a multifamily residential building at 1514 East 172nd Street in the Bronx, was ordered by the Court to pay civil penalties and serve time in jail until he corrects all violations at his property. Mr. Loutan allowed his property to slide into such a deplorable state that it was placed in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), an initiative that annually targets the 200 most distressed buildings in the City for remediation. Mr. Loutan failed to comply with AEP Orders to Correct issued by HPD, failed to appear in Court on numerous occasions, and failed to comply with Court orders directing the correction of housing code violations. On July 3, 2013, Bronx County Housing Court Judge Jerald Klein, finding Mr. Loutan in civil contempt of an earlier Order and Judgment, directed that he be fined and remanded to jail until such time as the violations are corrected and HPD’s AEP Orders to Correct are complied with.
“As an owner you are responsible for the upkeep of your property and its effect on the health, safety, and security of your tenants. If you shirk those responsibilities and force your tenants to live in deplorable conditions we will use every available enforcement resource we have to bring you into compliance with the law,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “I sincerely hope that other owners who maybe in a similar position view this as a stark wakeup call as well as an opportunity to put their affairs in order and do right by their tenants. I commend the hardworking staff in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program and Housing Litigation Division for their tireless efforts to protect our City’s tenants and ensure that owners are held accountable for their actions.”
1514 East 172nd Street, a 4-unit property that currently has 30 open housing code violations—or more than 7 per unit—was placed in the third round of AEP in November 2009. After Mr. Loutan failed to make repairs to meet the criteria for discharge, HPD issued AEP Orders to Correct on May 27, 2010, directing him to correct the violations and replace major building-wide systems to address the underlying conditions which are the cause of many of the violations. The AEP Order to Correct required: replacement of the roof, re-pointing the exterior walls, re-wiring the entire building, and replacing the heating plant.
The owner failed to comply with the AEP Orders and did not take any action to perform the necessary work, so in January 2012 HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) initiated an enforcement proceeding against Mr. Loutan. He did not appear in court and on March 15, 2012, Housing Court Judge Klein issued an Inquest Order and Judgment which directed Mr. Loutan to correct all outstanding violations, to comply with the AEP Order, and to pay HPD civil penalties for his failure to register the property for three consecutive years.
“While these events are unfortunately necessary, we do recognize that there are good owners who may have properties with conditions headed in the wrong direction. If that’s the case, we are here to help and have programs available that can assist in the refinancing and rehabilitation of distressed low-income properties,” said Commissioner Wambua. “Real estate may be a business, but it is one that has a profound impact on the families who live in the buildings as well as the stability of the surrounding neighborhood. The City views ownership as an incredibly important responsibility – owners and landlords should as well.”
Despite the orders from the Court, Mr. Loutan still did not correct the violations did not address any of the four major conditions to be corrected under the AEP Orders. Due to the owner’s failure to take any significant action, HPD replaced the roof and performed the exterior pointing. HPD then filed a motion seeking to punish Mr. Loutan for Civil Contempt, directing him to comply with the AEP Orders and seeking civil penalties.
Mr. Loutan again failed to appear in court and the matter was set for trial on June 25, 2013. On that date, neither the owner nor his attorney appeared and the matter proceeded to a hearing on default. Judge Klein issued an Order, Judgment and Warrant of Arrest on July 3, 2013 finding Mr. Loutan in civil contempt of the March 15, 2012 Order and Judgment, and directing that he be fined $250.00 and remanded to jail for civil contempt until such time as he corrects the violations and complies with the AEP Orders; awarding HPD civil penalties in the amount of $92,910 on the outstanding violations; and issuing a further order directing compliance with all subsequent violations placed on the property.
On July 3, 2013, that Order, Judgment and Warrant of Arrest was delivered to the Sheriff for execution against Mr. Loutan.
# # #
About the Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP)
AEP is an initiative to effectively identify and increase the pressure on the owners of some of the City’s most distressed residential buildings to bring the buildings up to code, so that the tenants are not forced to live in substandard and hazardous conditions. The program calls for the designation each year of 200 different multiple dwellings, each to be chosen based on specific criteria set forth in the Safe Housing Law. Landlords with properties selected for the AEP have been put on notice that comprehensive repairs must be made. If those repairs are not initiated HPD is authorized to undertake roof-to-cellar inspections of the building, issue orders to the owner to repair and replace major building systems, and to make the necessary repairs and bill the owner for that work they fail to do it. To date 704 buildings have been successfully stabilized and discharged through the program, and more than $26.2 million has been recovered in emergency repair and AEP charges, fees and liens.
About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, more than 147,890 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For regular updates on news and services, connect with us via www.facebook.com/nychpd and www.twitter.com/nychousing. For more information, visit our website at www.nyc.gov/hpd.