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This squad cracks down on bad NYC landlords

The eight-member tenant anti-harassment unit, which includes lawyers and housing inspectors, has made over 1,000 visits to almost 600 buildings city-wide since forming in April 2019. 

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground/Flickr

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Have a serious issue with your landlord? New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development has a team that investigates complaints from renters about landlord harassment and can pursue litigation against offenders.

The eight-member tenant anti-harassment unit, which includes lawyers and housing inspectors, has made over 1,000 visits to almost 600 buildings city-wide since forming in April 2019. Renters who are facing harassment from their landlord can call 311 or go to HPD's website and file a complaint.

HPD defines tenant harassment as “any act or omission by or on behalf of an owner that causes or is intended to cause a tenant to surrender or waive any rights in relation to the occupancy of their unit,” which includes not offering a lease renewal, offering you a buyout, failure to make necessary repairs, and unjustified evictions. Not providing essential services like electricity, heat, and hot water may also be considered tenant harassment. 

“If the combination of lack of services meet our criteria, we will initiate litigation against property owners and we have so in 40 to 50 buildings,” says AnnMarie Santiago, deputy commissioner of enforcement and neighborhood services at HPD. The unit's goal is to initiate litigation against 100 buildings a year, as needed.

In addition, the department recently published a list of the 250 worst buildings in the city. Brooklyn had the top six buildings, and 739 Dumont Ave., in Brownsville, took the number one spot. The worst building in the Bronx is a 20-unit building at 315 East 166th St. in Claremont Village, the worst in Queens is a six-unit building at 34-32 43rd St. in Astoria, and Manhattan is a nine-unit building at 310 East 116th St. in East Harlem. Staten Island is the only borough not represented on the list.