Deceember 5, 2016
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – New York City is withholding rent payments for tenants on public assistance in two buildings where the landlords have failed to repair hundreds of violations. The landlords are Jay Weiss, at 541 West 150 Street in Manhattan, and Agron Berisha, at 20 West 190th Street in the Bronx.
“It’s simple, when you pay the rent, you should get a decent place to live. We are hitting unscrupulous landlords who refuse to repair their buildings where it hurts the most – their wallets,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to force property owners to follow the law, to clear housing code violations, and to ensure that every tenant in New York City has a safe home that they can afford.”
In May and using the Spiegel law, the City threatened to withhold rent payments to twelve “Dirty Dozen” buildings with a combined total of 2,081 code violations, the most serious of which included the presence of mold, leaks, broken windows, and missing window guards. The City’s action has resulted in 1,194 of those violations being cleared since May in 10 of the 12 buildings. As a result, the more than 1,000 tenants are living in significantly improved buildings.
Six owners of 10 buildings have made substantial building-wide repairs since May, reducing the number of total violations in the buildings by 76 percent, from a combined total of 1,559 to 365. As a result, all tenants of the buildings, not just those on public assistance, are benefiting. The City will continue to monitor these buildings to ensure that the remaining violations are cleared.
Landlords Weiss and Berisha made some repairs but still left a substantial number of violations, including some of the most serious violations uncorrected. As a result, the City is stopping rent payments, totaling $4,710.42 a month, for the tenants receiving public assistance starting on December 1.
“By enforcing the Spiegel Law, we are sending a strong message to landlords who disregard the safety and health of their tenants that their actions will not be tolerated in our city,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “If property owners refuse to repair the violations in their buildings after receiving sufficient notice to do so, we will not hesitate to use every possible legal resource available to us to protect their tenants.”
The 1962 Spiegel Law allows the Human Resources Administration (HRA) to withhold rent payments for tenants receiving public assistance if conditions in the building are considered “dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to life and health.” The law specifically prohibits landlords from evicting their tenants for rent withholdings by the City. All of the owners of the “Dirty Dozen” buildings, listed below, were on the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord Watchlist.
“New York City will no longer bankroll landlords who force their tenants to live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “By withholding rental assistance payments to these landlords, we will ensure that tenants are protected from hazardous conditions. Over one thousand tenants are already living in drastically improved buildings due to our actions six months ago, and we will not stop until every New Yorker is living in a safe and decent home.”