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Tenant Beware
August 30, 2010 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Moving to or within NYC soon? Check to make sure your potential landlord isn't on this list of 153 by the NYC Public Advocates Office.

Here are the criteria used to compile this list.

Here's how to make your own submission.

If you're really curious, use this tool to search pending cases in the NYC Civil Court.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on (32 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Manhattan only has cases in Chinatown and Harlem?
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:47 PM on August 30, 2010


They apparently never go to Queens either.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2010


For a landlord to be added to the Watch List, they must own a building with fewer than 35 units with an average of at least three open, serious violations (B and C violations) per unit. Larger buildings must have an average of at least two open, serious violations (B and C violations) per unit.

As stated in 2nd link.

If you're looking for specific "cases" then you should check out the last link once you have the name of the landlord.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2010


Manhattan only has cases in Chinatown and Harlem?

Unsurprising, but still very sad. Wow.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:52 PM on August 30, 2010


Why don't they just mark every fucking building in the city, every landlord is your enemy.
posted by wcfields at 4:52 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


2bucksplus: “Manhattan only has cases in Chinatown and Harlem?”

Threeway Handshake: “Unsurprising, but still very sad. Wow.”

Wait, what? You find that unsurprising? You really believe that every Manhattan building outside of Chinatown and Harlem has a wonderful landlord?
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 PM on August 30, 2010


Wait, what? You find that unsurprising? You really believe that every Manhattan building outside of Chinatown and Harlem has a wonderful landlord?

First of all, I live in Manhattan.

No, we don't all have wonderful landlords. This isn't a list of non-wonderful landlords. Do you see what you have to do to get on this list?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:25 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kill my landlord. Kill My Landlord.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:28 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brilliantly organized tenants association.

Operating under various corporate names, the Shaloms buy rent-stabilized buildings and then systematically dismantle required building services.

Tenant Resources

Buyout Calculator
posted by nickyskye at 5:29 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's easy to get riled up about scumbag landlords, but more attention ought to be paid to the rent-control schemes that drive decent property owners out of the game. Rent control and rent stabilization in NYC make a certain class of multifamily property into essentially fixed-income assets. With revenue capped without respect to demand, basically the only ways to realize upside are by A) harassing tenants to leave, thereby triggering vacancy rent increases; B) cutting down on the expenses under a landlord's control, i.e. basic maintenance; or C) selling out to a predatory investor that plans to engage in A and C.
posted by boots at 5:36 PM on August 30, 2010


Absolutely, boots. There is nobody below the NYC property owner on the scale of human misery. THINK OF THE LANDLORDS!
posted by gum at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


make a certain class of multifamily property into essentially fixed-income assets.

Wow man, have you learned nothing from this past fucking decade of real estate collapse?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:58 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh the poor landlords. In rent stabilized apartments, rents go up every time the tenant signs a new lease (every 1 or 2 years). Every time a tenant vacates an apartment, the landlord can raise the rent 20%. The notion that landlords have to either harass tenants or turn their buildings into slums in order to survive is bullshit. They do it out of greed. New York City is increasingly becoming the playground of the rich, and I'm not just talking about Manhattan.
posted by Mavri at 6:02 PM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seth Green is one of these landlords? O.o
posted by Alnedra at 6:04 PM on August 30, 2010


Threeway Handshake: “First of all, I live in Manhattan. No, we don't all have wonderful landlords. This isn't a list of non-wonderful landlords. Do you see what you have to do to get on this list?”

Oh – then I'm pretty sure 2bucksplus, you, and me are misunderstanding each other. Now that I read what you said again, you're right: it's sad but unsurprising that there are a number of cases of this in Chinatown and Harlem.

All I meant was: it's surprising that there aren't any in the rest of the city. (I think that's what 2bucksplus meant, too.) I had a friend that lived in Washington Heights, and I'm just about certain her ex-landlord qualifies; there was some seriously fucked up shit going on there.
posted by koeselitz at 6:10 PM on August 30, 2010


Who's got one for L.A.?
posted by DigitalMindShadow at 6:14 PM on August 30, 2010


This is a very good idea, information about slumlords in Philly can be tough to track down. It requires accessing the Municipal Court online records system which is public but not intuitive or very easy to use for anyone who doesn't need to access it professionally. I should know better as a social worker but back in April I moved into an apartment complex run but what I came to discover is a known slumlord. At first it didn't seem to bad because when I came to check out the property on Saturday nights to see if it was crazy the weather was still chilly out. After I moved in and it warmed up complete chaos broke out. I'm talking massive brawls in the courtyard directly outside my window, police on the premises every night, open drug dealing, like it's a straight up housing project. I even ran into an old dopefiend I know who was here buying a bag and some pills. Crazy.

Luckily I work for the courts and the words "court," "judge" and "lawyer" are to slumlords what garlic is to vampires. I got with the Assistant District Attorney who works in my courtroom and she did me a solid by having their Narcotics Division open an investigation against the property, which the slumlord knows will result in seizure of the entire complex by the city if shit doesn't change. Now there's like this mad scramble by the management to fix all the L&I violations, test the fire alarms, fix the busted water system. Not surprisingly, they're letting me out of my lease which doesn't help much in the immediate future because I can't afford to leave, anyway. There should totally be a public watch list that renters can easily access, but I should have known better nonetheless having worked in housing previously, total bonehead maneuver.
posted by The Straightener at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's the link to the Philly Municipal Court housing records. Click on the public login, fill out the CAPTCHA thing, click on search, then set your search to "defendant" and put in either your landlord's name or the name of the property they manage.
posted by The Straightener at 6:32 PM on August 30, 2010


Here's what my search turned up, this is why you want to search court records before moving into a place that seems really cheap for the amount of space you get:

"Philadelphia police officers Michael Kopecki and James Santomieri responded to a call that shots were being fired near an apartment building. Entering the courtyard of the building, the officers saw Kevin Jones and Larry Harrison, who was holding a handgun. Kopecki yelled, "Police!" Harrison ran into the building, and the officers chased him through a fire escape door, down a hallway, and into apartment C-107. The front door opened into the living room, and the officers found Sam Stallings and Jenkins seated on a couch, both wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt. On the coffee table before them were three bags of white powder containing a total of 55.3 grams of cocaine and 42 grams of non-cocaine white powder, two triple-beam scales, two loaded .38 caliber revolvers, small ziplock-style bags, clear plastic vials, and numerous red caps. On the floor was a loaded sawed-off shotgun."

I live here now.
posted by The Straightener at 6:35 PM on August 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


All I meant was: it's surprising that there aren't any in the rest of the city. (I think that's what 2bucksplus meant, too.) I had a friend that lived in Washington Heights, and I'm just about certain her ex-landlord qualifies; there was some seriously fucked up shit going on there.

Yes. It is surprising (i.e. suspicious) that the only markers are in Chinatown and Harlem.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:36 PM on August 30, 2010


I pretty much run everyone I do business with through the WI court search. It's not limited to housing violations; we found out our downstairs neighbor (at our old house) was under house arrest.
posted by desjardins at 6:41 PM on August 30, 2010


There is nobody below the NYC property owner on the scale of human misery. THINK OF THE LANDLORDS!

I'm hardly suggesting that landlords deserve sympathy. I simply think it's worth discussing the fact that NYC public policy creates a perverse set of incentive for landlords that tend to cause them, as rational operators, to exploit their tenants and allow slumlike conditions to persist. The landlord of a rent regulated building doesn't interact with their tenants as though they were customers. A rent regulated tenant is typically occupying their apartment at a below-market rent. That means that they will elect to remain in their apartment at their legal rent even if conditions are or become bad, even awful, because they don't have other options. It also means that were the landlord allowed, they would be able to re-rent the apartment at a considerably higher rate without much effort, expense or risk. The landlord, therefore, has every incentive to encourage tenants to leave, and no incentive to encourage them to stay. Don't you agree that that's an undesirable condition?

Greed is bad, but it exists. The role of housing public policy ought to be to mitigate both the ability and the incentive of landlords to act based on greed. It's my belief that rent control and rent stabilization are counterproductive to that goal.

Wow man, have you learned nothing from this past fucking decade of real estate collapse?

What lessons ought I have learned from this past fucking decade that you conclude I have not learned?
posted by boots at 6:46 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


@The Straightener... if you think that sucks, imagine having to live there because thats all you can (barely) afford. i'm glad you were able to get out of your lease though.

as i scanned the linked list, i looked for my prior landlord in brooklyn... didn't find him, though he should have been there. i think when many are lucky just to have a roof over your head and having to negotiate the rent every single month... the likelihood that you will make a complaint against a fked up landlord about...anything... is zero to none. otherwise this list would be endless.
posted by lunachic at 6:55 PM on August 30, 2010


Well, we can. You know we can.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:00 PM on August 30, 2010


It is all I can afford, I can't even afford to leave. Wherever I go won't cost more, it will hopefully just be more decent. This is the natural consequence of working a job serving the poor in America, you eventually become poor yourself. Most social workers I know qualify for the low income housing resources they're supposed to pass on to their clients.
posted by The Straightener at 7:05 PM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


The New Owner
posted by hydrophonic at 7:40 PM on August 30, 2010


@The Straightener I used to be in social work... in your city. I know exactly what you're talking about. The welfare system is like a bandaid on a festering wound. I wish it would do more to address the cause, and not just the symptoms of poverty. Unfortunately, too many people who work in that industry care little more than the paychecks they carry home. I am not saying that you are one of those people. It is not often that social workers actually live among the people they work for. I think if more did, they would be a lot less condescending and a helluva lot more interest in what its really like out t/here in the hood.
posted by lunachic at 8:03 PM on August 30, 2010


I had a friend that lived in Washington Heights, and I'm just about certain her ex-landlord qualifies; there was some seriously fucked up shit going on there.


There are a bunch up there on the list, and in Inwood.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:00 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to keep re-entering the thread...but i highly suggest you submit your landlords, or get your friends to submit your landlords if you feel they do some highly unethical shit. There isn't much recourse against slumlords...but there is something you can do.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:10 PM on August 30, 2010


The e-courts link that hal_c_on linked only has cases with future court dates (although they sometimes show up for a week or so after the last court date). So, if you really want to know what your landlord's L&T litigation history is, you have to go to the housing court clerk's office in your borough and use their non-intuitive computer. You can also go to HPD's violation website to check all housing violations in a particular building, but you can't search by landlord.

I'm not aware of any easy way to find the sort of information The Straightener got for his building in New York. To check the actual content of housing court cases, you have to pull the individual files--that stuff's not online, either over the internet or on the courthouse computers. (And on re-reading, that may have been what The Straightener had to do, too.)

As for the main link, my guess would be that the initial list of slumlords was made with the help of some community-based organizations. That would explain the concentration in certain neighborhoods, since most CBO's serve a certain geographic area. (Although the neighborhoods that are on the list are the ones where one would expect to see the highest numbers, it is unlikely that the other areas have no offenders at all.)
posted by Mavri at 7:36 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, the link I provided is public info, I know it's hard to comprehend with the laundry list of macro-dysfunctions that nearly bring the Philadelphia court system to the brink of collapse on a daily basis that they are actually fairly ahead of the curve with respect to getting dockets of various kinds online, but they are, even if the interfaces they provide are often hard to navigate. You can find a link to the municipal court record system on the tenant union website but, again, even there it's not very well communicated what information is in the database or how to search for it. I think most Philadelphians would not be able to get the same information I found, using the same system, they would be stymied by the complicated procedure of locating it.

And having this information easily available to the public I think becomes more and more important as the weak economy drags on. The longer people go without jobs, or are under employed, the more people are going to have to downgrade their living standards and I think a lot of people who never imagined themselves living in a slumlord building will find themselves in one. I wouldn't be in one if my already low salary hadn't been frozen for four years running and then hit with furlough days last year. When I was making my lease signing decision I wasn't sure whether I would have more furlough days this year or not, and certainly couldn't count on a raise. When I looked at the property I knew it looked a little rugged but the fact is that's how I'm living right now whether I want to or not. I visited the property on a couple Saturday nights to check the noise level and it seemed cool. The property was literally one block from where I previously resided, and I asked my old landlords, an old hippy couple who lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, whether they had heard bad things about it and they said they had not. So it wasn't like I moved into this place blind, or didn't know the neighborhood. Basically, the only thing I didn't do, which I should have, was run them through the courts. The result has been 6 straight months of misery which I would love to prevent someone else from experiencing. If there was a list like this in Philly I would totally submit my landlord's name to it.
posted by The Straightener at 11:29 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


What lessons ought I have learned from this past fucking decade that you conclude I have not learned?

Using above quote as tag for entire thread of discussion: I think the fundamental problem is that capitalism is not the appropriate economic system for ensuring that everyone has access to safe, habitable, affordable housing. I agree that the proliferation of slum housing is a consequence of current systems of incentives, or lack thereof. So long as housing is primarily a market commodity though, I don't see that any amount of regulation will get around this basic problematic incentive structure.
posted by eviemath at 7:44 PM on August 31, 2010


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