NYS gov bureaucracy soft on landlord harassment: comptroller

Michael Gartland

New York Daily News

Dec 12, 2019

Landlords hit with fines for harassing tenants often aren’t paying the piper, according to a new audit from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The audit, obtained Thursday by the Daily News, slammed the state’s Office of Rent Administration for not applying the “proper fiscal controls over fines and settlements.”

“We have limited assurance that all monies due the state are received and accounted for because of system, process and policy weaknesses,” the audit stated.

The report also found that as of April there were at least $346,000 in outstanding fines due from landlords and that harassment fines were imposed in a paltry 12 out of 684 cases over a nearly three year period.

The Office of Rent Administration operates within the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which oversees the supervision and maintenance affordable housing. As part of that mission, Rent Administration oversees rent laws that apply to more than 1 million rent-regulated apartments.

Aside from the 684 harassment cases DiNapoli examined from Jan. 2016 to Sept. 2018, he also looked at 895 non-compliance cases.

In one case, he found that a $6,000 fine recorded in Westchester in Nov. 2018 — as well as $14,000 in additional fines to the same landlord for the same rent-controlled apartment — remained unpaid as of June 2019.

“The tenant continues to complain that the conditions have not been corrected,” the audit noted. The landlord owes an overall total of $38,000 in fines.

“Unscrupulous landlords are not going to stop harassing tenants and skirting their responsibilities if fines are not assessed and collected,” DiNapoli said. “The Office of Rent Administration has to step up to make sure tenants are not facing unnecessary hardships and building owners pay up when they break the law.”