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New app helps New Yorkers figure out who owns their building

Because many building owners opt to use an LLC, it can be difficult for tenants and advocates to track them down when repairs are needed—or when they are being subjected to questionable behavior.

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For many New Yorkers, experiencing a bad landlord is a rite of passage, but that’s something Brooklyn-based nonprofit JustFix.nyc is hoping to change.

Founded in 2015, the tenant and advocacy startup has built an alliance of more than 40 community and legal partners. The group also offers apps to help residents with repair requests, respond to eviction notices, and this week launched “Who Owns What” to help them navigate the tricky web of New York landlords and management companies.

Because many building owners opt to use a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, it can be difficult for tenants and advocates to track them down when repairs are needed—or when they are being subjected to questionable behavior by their building’s management.

“Every New Yorker has the right to know who owns the building in which they live, especially tenants experiencing harassment and displacement,” says Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan council member,  in a statement. She called the app especially helpful "for tenants who do not have an attorney or other ways to track down vital information."

The free platform, which can be found at WhoOwnsWhat.nyc, maps property ownership compiled from NYC open data, and provides vital details on everything from code violations and evictions to potential changes in rent-regulated units.

Since its soft launch in May, the site has had more than 20,000 searches. The Queens neighborhood office of the Legal Aid Society used Who Owns What “to unmask a politically connected and well-established family as the player behind a scheme to defraud hundreds of tenants from rent protections,” says Sateesh Nori, attorney-in-charge.