Worst. Landlord. Ever.
October 13, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

The Public Advocate for the City of New York has released an interactive map, The NYC Landord Watchlist, which maps the city's most poorly managed buildings. The map uses data from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to list over 6,800 buildings across New York. You can search the map by address and by borough. If you select a property listed on the map you can view the number and type of violations it has received. [via]
posted by Room 641-A (27 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a clear failure of law, if everyone knows who the scumbags are, and they haven't been sued or fined into oblivion.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:15 AM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Reading lists like these never fails to fill me with anger and despair, but today I found a tiny little nugget -- a VERY tiny little nugget -- of humor: The second-worst building in Queens is owned by a property company whose head officer is named Michael Bluth.
posted by bakerina at 10:24 AM on October 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


Awesome. I hope the city doesn't get sued by some rich slumlord over the list, because it seems possible.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:26 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Awesome. I hope the city doesn't get sued by some rich slumlord over the list, because it seems possible.

Nope. It's compiled from public records of their violations. It would be dismissed.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:39 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


It looks like they are going strictly by number of violations, but I'd argue that violations vs number of units may be an even better metric. At least, I'd view Courtlandt Hills, with 774 violations for 640 units, as likely worse than 1405 Second Avenue, with 859 violations for 13515 units.
posted by tavella at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


And Windermer Holdings managed to rack up 649 violations in 1 building with only 200 units. Yow.
posted by tavella at 10:52 AM on October 13, 2014


It would be fun if they put notices on each building with their ratings, like they've done for restaurant sanitary inspections.
posted by bhnyc at 11:05 AM on October 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


It would be fun if they put notices on each building with their ratings, like they've done for restaurant sanitary inspections.

So the tenants could take their business elsewhere? How often do tenants simply move out?

I live out in flyover country and while I have been to NYC, it was an overnight stay that barely counts, so maybe I'm wrong, but my impression is that the landlord/tenant relationship is more-or-less permanent there.
posted by Hatashran at 11:15 AM on October 13, 2014


It would be fun if they put notices on each building with their ratings, like they've done for restaurant sanitary inspections.

A suitably-motivated activist group with a laser printer and a lotta Avery stickers could achieve the same ends...
posted by aramaic at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


So the tenants could take their business elsewhere? How often do tenants simply move out?

Maybe existing tenants might leave, but more importantly so that renters know to avoid them. If I walked up to a building while searching for an apartment and saw a notice for hundreds of violations, that would be a pretty big reason to search elsewhere.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:24 AM on October 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is a clear failure of law, if everyone knows who the scumbags are, and they haven't been sued or fined into oblivion.

This is basically documenting how the bad landlords have been fined.
It would be fun if they put notices on each building with their ratings, like they've done for restaurant sanitary inspections.
So the tenants could take their business elsewhere? How often do tenants simply move out?


New tenants prefer a good landlord over a bad one, all else being equal. If this information is readily available, bad landlords should either improve or compete at a disadvantage (which basically means charging less rent, which means they have an incentive to improve).

It probably won't matter so much for existing tenants - if you're not having any problems it doesn't matter if your landlord is shady, but if you are having problems, you don't care how many other violations they've been fined for in the past.
posted by aubilenon at 11:26 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


my impression is that the landlord/tenant relationship is more-or-less permanent there.

That maybe used to be the case, but everyone I know who lives in NYC is in a constant state of moving/just moved/looking to move again.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:31 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of the data appears to be old. My previous location has the wrong landlord listed, and that building changed hands 8 years ago.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:32 AM on October 13, 2014


This is a clear failure of law, if everyone knows who the scumbags are, and they haven't been sued or fined into oblivion.

This is basically documenting how the bad landlords have been fined.


hence the "...into oblivion".
posted by leotrotsky at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The amusing part is counting the number of class C violations which are supposed to be fixed immediately. My former building always had around 70-80 of those at all times

This is just another reminder that you should check the HPD online portal thing before renting in NYC.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:46 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish there was something like this for where I live, though I'm sure the crack-riddled rooming house where I currently live would somehow find itself exempt from listing.
posted by item at 12:05 PM on October 13, 2014


In my not-NYC experience, the problem is that the worst places prey on particularly naive or vulnerable people who are some combination of not knowing they can, not being able to deal with, or wanting to avoid the scrutiny of reporting the landlords for violations. Illegal rooming houses that will rent to essentially anyone with cash, the really slumlordy buildings that do the same, etc.

The shittiest place I ever lived had no bad violations, and its hellish landlord had only a couple for any property she owned. Basically all of which caterered to recent immigrants, poor people, or early 20s not-student people working like service industry jobs who didn't know any better cramming a ton of people in the place.

I don't know if the city does random or scheduled inspections there, but they do here and a lot of the shittiest places still slip through the cracks. The ones with the most violations online are the ones that cater to like, lower middle class or middle class people, both location and income wise. Not the actually appalling places that cater to uninformed or poor people.

Basically, I wonder if as appalling as this is, its even showing us remotely the worst out there.
posted by emptythought at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is a clear failure of law, if everyone knows who the scumbags are, and they haven't been sued or fined into oblivion.

So, friends of mine used to have one of these guys as a landlord.

A suit was brought against the guy, but it didn't accomplish much. So my friends - after having gone on a year-long rent strike, pretty much - just said "fuck it" and moved to another neighborhood with a better landlord.

Lawsuits take a long time, unfortunately - and the tenants get shafted in the meantime while the city's sorting things out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on October 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Or theoretically someone could have a landlord who could have theoretical connections in the court system and charges could just sort of theoretically vanish.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


but I'd argue that violations vs number of units may be an even better metric

It depends on whether your focus is on a particular building/unit or on a landlord. Tracking units is a good gauge from the consumer side, tracking landlords is a good gauge from the enforcement side. Like, should a landlord, even though they control a bazillion units, still be able to get away with having thousands of violations? Likewise, would you want to rent in a building where the probability of having to deal with a violation approaches 1?
posted by rhizome at 1:28 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


...not knowing they can, not being able to deal with, or wanting to avoid the scrutiny of reporting the landlords for violations.

The scrutiny of all landlords, in effect. Much like these records, housing court records are public. Landlords will purchase regularly-updated indices of housing court cases and god forbid you're trying to rent from someone who does this and your name comes up as either a plaintiff or a defendant in a landlord-tenant court suit, wholly regardless of the nature of the suit.
posted by griphus at 1:32 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder if a person could create an LLC or something and sue with that.
posted by rhizome at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2014


I definitely appreciate the mapping initiative, since it provides users with an intuitive interface and does a great job of showing clusters of neglect.

If you want to learn more, NYC's Buildings Information System is a fantastic resource for reading about about open violations. As a bonus, some buildings have .pdf certificates of occupancy going back 100 years, replete with gorgeous handwriting.

All that said, I'm a little skeptical about whether much will come from naming-and-shaming landlords. As things stand, it's possible to be infamous for bankruptcies, noise violations, vacant buildings, dangerous work without a permit, and operating a "sex cave" without much in the way of consequences. And that's just one guy.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:20 PM on October 13, 2014


Nice. Reminds me of Hans Haacke's activist art work from the 70s. He basically documented the holdings and conditions of NYCs biggest slumlord, which caused such a scandal that they canceled Haacke's show at the Gugenheim and fired the curator.
posted by mr.ersatz at 2:24 PM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Some are these are great. "No lobster roll cart in front of building." "Residents are mostly cisgendered." "There are only fifty-eight quirky little Jewish sandwich shops within walking distance." "Louis CK always filming in stairwell."
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:38 PM on October 13, 2014


griphus: The scrutiny of all landlords, in effect. Much like these records, housing court records are public. Landlords will purchase regularly-updated indices of housing court cases and god forbid you're trying to rent from someone who does this and your name comes up as either a plaintiff or a defendant in a landlord-tenant court suit, wholly regardless of the nature of the suit.

this is so incredibly fucked up, i've heard of this but i completely forgot about it.

i know housing court in NYC is its own separate court. what it really needs, is to work like ebay feedback. wherein there's no way for a landlord to give negative feedback, or access this information.

all these court cases should be sealed, or it should be somehow impossible to just buy lists of those involved. i'd be perfectly fine with losing info of which landlords had been sued the most if it protected renters from this thin blue line bullshit of "try and get justice once, well now you're uppity and no one will ever rent to you again".

i've definitely heard stories of people moving and losing money instead of going in to that system because they knew what would happen. and that is just too fucked for words.
posted by emptythought at 4:05 PM on October 13, 2014


i've definitely heard stories of people moving and losing money instead of going in to that system because they knew what would happen.

Amusingly, before my friends moved, they talked to a tenants' rights lawyer that was doing community outreach at some seminar or something. By this point they'd been holding onto about 8 months of rent in a rent strike against the landlord, but were thinking maybe it'd be worth moving anyway, and wanted to talk to the lawyer about what they should do with the rent they'd withheld. The lawyer asked them for details about why they were on a rent strike, and they told him all the guy's violations.

The lawyer thought a second, then turned to the guy (the lease was in his name). "You have a common enough name, wouldn't you say?"

"Uh...yes?"

"So -hypothetically speaking, of course - if you just moved out one day, how would your landlord find you to collect on back rent?"

When even the lawyer is telling you to stiff your landlord, it's time to get the fuck out of your apartment.

(Their new place is SWEEEEEET, too.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


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