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If you've ever been left in the dark about who actually owns your building—and who to call when it's in need of repairs—there are plenty of New Yorkers in the exact same boat. WNYC looked into the problem of so-called "mystery landlords" as part of a week-long series of stories about New York real estate, and apparently, the problem is rampant. "It's a shell game," said Public Advocate Letitia James of landlords hiding their identities behind LLCs, and neglecting to register their properties with HPD.
Even if you don't want much contact with your landlord, the lack of transparency can cause some serious problems. Take, for example, one group of Crown Heights tenants who couldn't even figure out where to send rent after their building was sold. One received a handwritten note under her door instructing her to send the money to a new company, while two different men who would only give their first names insisted to other tenants that they were the ones collecting the rent. This confusion also made it more or less impossible to figure out who to contact about long ignored repairs in the building.
The rampant lack of clarity even made it hard for the Public Advocate's office to put together its annual "worst landlords" list, and James is currently pushing for legislation that would both strengthen registration requirements and force landlords to link their properties together, enabling officials to see an owner's entire portfolio—and its violations—at a glance. For now, we've got tips on looking up your building's history and ownership on ACRIS, the city's property records system. And if some guy shows up at your doorstep insisting he's the building's new owner? Maybe best to tell him his check's in the mail.