NYC PUBLIC ADVOCATE UNVEILS 2021 WORST LANDLORD WATCHLIST

Dec. 16, 2021


New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams today released the annual Worst Landlord Watchlist, which spotlights the most egregiously negligent landlords in the city as determined by their number of average open violations across watchlist buildings. In the announcement, the Public Advocate highlighted the city’s past failures to hold bad landlords accountable under Mayor de Blasio – and history as the worst landlord itself through NYCHA – and called on the incoming Mayor and City Council to prioritize landlord accountability as they prepare to take office next month.

The number one worst individual landlord for 2021 is David Schorr, who amassed an average 1,442 open violations across 17 buildings featured on the watchlist. Schorr ranked #75 on the 2020 list. Schorr’s buildings featured on the list, which are primarily located in Harlem and Morningside Heights, have severe open violations including rat and roach infestation, mold, leaks, and lead paint, among other issues. He is listed as receiving J-51 tax exemptions for several of his buildings.

The New York City Housing Authority, which continues to rank as the overall worst landlord in the city for the fourth year in a row, saw a dramatic increase in the number of deteriorating or dangerous conditions. As of November 2021, there were 600,480 open work orders in NYCHA buildings across the city, an increase of over 121,600 from the previous year. The de Blasio administration will end with a significantly greater number of open orders than when it began in January of 2013, when NYCHA reported a backlog of over 420,000 work orders citywide.

"While the top name on our list is new, the patterns of neglect and abuse by bad landlords are all too familiar,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “With a new administration about to take office, it’s critical that we take expanded, expedited action to hold the worst actors in our city accountable. The city needs to invest the resources needed to stop landlords from treating violations as negligible, fines as the cost of doing business, and profits as more valuable than the people living in their buildings. At the same time, the city itself is truly the worst landlord through NYCHA — with more open work orders now than eight years ago — and must take urgent action to address years of failing to adequately invest in or support the nearly half a million New Yorkers living there.”

The top five worst individual landlords in New York City for 2021 are:

  1. David Schorr, with an average of 1,442 HPD open violations
  2. Abdul Khan, with an average of 1,302 HPD open violations
  3. Nathaniel Montgomery, with an average of 1,192 HPD open violations
  4. Michael Niamonitakis, with an average of 1,060 HPD open violations
  5. David Blau, with an average of 1,050 HPD open violations

The 2021 Worst Landlord Watchlist indicates that throughout the last year of the pandemic, many landlords have further neglected building repairs, as evidenced by an overall rise in violations across landlords on the list, as well as an increase in violations reported to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) across the city. At the same time, several landlords previously at the top of the list have dropped to lower positions, in part after finally addressing violations in many of their buildings which led to their high rankings. However, while the situation for some tenants has improved, conditions for New York City tenants at large are still deteriorating, as there are more HPD violations recorded citywide this year than last year.

At a press conference to announce the list, the Public Advocate emphasized the need for the incoming administration to allocate the resources needed to crack down on the city’s worst landlords, including NYCHA. This includes providing expanded funding to HPD for enforcement purposes.

Public Advocate Williams also called on the incoming City Council to move swiftly to pass the Worst Landlord Accountability Act, a package of bills aimed at correcting and preventing disingenuous tactics used by some of those landlords in order to attempt to remove themselves from the list. The first would prevent the city’s worst landlords from falsely self-certifying repairs, and the second would mandate that HPD respond more rapidly to severe violations. The Public Advocate emphasized that the measures must be prioritized in the upcoming legislative agenda for the Council. Passage of these bills, he noted, should be accompanied by additional resources for HPD, which has been underfunded relative to the overwhelming need presented by bad actors. 

Private landlords on the Worst Landlord Watchlist are ranked objectively according to data obtained by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Landlords are ranked based on the average number of housing code violations open per month on their buildings on the watchlist, using data from December 2020 to November 2021. More on the methodology is available here.

View the full Worst Landlord Watchlist, and check to see if your address is owned by a 2021 worst landlord, by visiting LandlordWatchlist.com.

“The landlords on this list didn’t just ignore their responsibility in business – they made a business out of ignoring their responsibilities,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “As the former public advocate who supercharged this list, I know how effective it is in identifying and exposing unscrupulous landlords who force tenants to live in dangerous conditions and how it gives tenants the power to fight back. I thank Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for shining a light on the issues and rights of tenants across our city and always standing up for our most vulnerable.”

"Too often tenants living in rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, and public housing apartments — are left with little to no recourse while living with broken stoves, no heat, massive holes in the ceiling, and rodents. Requests to resolve these issues quickly and transparently by landlords are often ignored. Thanks to the Office of the Public Advocate, the city has a tool in the Worst Landlord Watchlist that enables tenants, public officials, advocates, and other concerned individuals to identify residential property owners who consistently break City laws. As elected officials, we must continue to find ways to prevent landlords from evading accountability and protect tenants from physically unsafe or otherwise insecure conditions. Today, I stand with our Public Advocate in our fight to protect tenant’s rights to dignified and safe housing against the 100 most egregiously negligent landlords in New York City," said State Senator Robert Jackson.

"Far too many New Yorkers are forced to live in terrible conditions due to landlords who fail to maintain their properties and protect the wellbeing of their tenants," said Assembly Member Al Taylor. "This is unacceptable at any time, but it is unconscionable during a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.Bad landlords must be held accountable for their actions and I applaud Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for putting together the 2021 Worst Landlords Watchlist to bring the worst of the worst to light. Every tenant deserves a safe, clean, and decent place to live, and I am committed to fighting alongside my colleagues to empower tenants and ensure these bad actors do not continue to profit from negligent behavior while people suffer."

“As elected officials we must ensure that all New Yorkers are heard and supported,” said Council Member Kevin C. Riley. "New York City renters deserve to feel safe and live comfortably in their homes. It is important that we expand upon legislation to uphold fair landlord to renter agreements, promoting amicable and beneficial relationships on both sides. Landlords, in both the private and public sector, have a responsibility in maintaining their properties for their renters. Resources and funding must be expanded to help assist landlords and fuel organizations that exist to do that field of work. Thank you Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for shedding light on this issue and moving forward with accountability and resolution. I commend the New York City landlords who are upholding the standard creating equal progress for this alliance that is the core of New York City.”

“Housing is a human right! Every person deserves a healthy place to live, and my office will fight for every tenant’s right to basic services such as heat and hot water. I thank Public Advocate Williams and his staff for compiling this year’s Worst Landlord watchlist. As an incoming Council Member, I am frustrated to see NYCHA on this list again. My office will support all tenants and their right to organize, no matter who their landlord is.” said Council Member-elect Alexa Avilés.

""Housing is a human right, but far too often, landlords throughout NYC do not treat tenants with the dignity and respect that everyone is entitled to. I'm thankful for the office of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for shedding light on these bad actors who have unscrupulously taken advantage of our neighbors," said Council Member-elect Rita Joseph.

“There’s a moral reckoning that must happen as New York City’s landlords prioritize profit over people. Especially in a time of global pandemic that has impacted every New Yorker, their safety and health must come at the utmost prioritization and that must start with the basic dignity and right to safe housing. The Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord Watchlist serves as the canary in the coal mine for how tenants across the city are vulnerable and at-risk even in their own homes – and must be utilized as a tool for how we inspire and transform our state and local laws to prioritize people over property,” said Whitney Hu, Director of Civic Engagement & Policy of Churches United for Fair Housing.

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