The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlord List: A Resource with Room to Improve

This morning the Daily News reported on “nightmare Bronx landlord” Eli Abbott. Abbott owns at least 3 buildings that are so distressed he recently topped Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlord List. The list is meant to be an easily accessible database of bad landlords. It provides dual services of keeping New Yorkers informed and holding landlords accountable for their actions.

Having a list like this is a great resource for tenants. HPD’s website, though it has valuable information, is somewhat unwieldy. The Public Advocate’s list, on the other hand, is user-friendly. It is easily searchable, and you can filter it by borough. But perhaps most importantly, the website for the list is equipped with forums for tenants to tell their own stories, to reach out for advice about their bad landlord, and to request information on their rights. There is even a link for tenants to report violations online. This list is a great example of how evolving media can be used to increase civic engagement and awareness around local issues.

Beyond the great work that the Worst Landlord List does, we believe that there are some ways in which it falls short. The list names landlords through their limited liability companies, and landlords typically create new LLC’s for each building that they own. That means that Eli Abbott – who owns far more than 3 buildings in NYC – is only held accountable for the three buildings on College Avenue that topped this year’s list. While I can’t say for certain, I could make an educated guess that none of his buildings are in great shape (though these 3 may be the worst.) We’d love to see the list go more in-depth and warn tenants of all buildings connected to this slumlord, rather than just these three.

We also believe that the Public Advocate could further improve the list by more fully vetting the landlords that make the cut. Though many of the buildings are justifiably in terrible shape, at least several of the buildings are actively involved in preservation scenarios with trusted affordable housing developers. For example:

  • Number 4 on this year’s list – Kelly St. Restoration LLC – refers to buildings that are vacant and under construction as part of a city-financed preservation deal. Tenants have been relocated (to safe and affordable apartments) and when they return home their buildings will be fully restored. Buildings where management companies have entered into preservation agreements like this are supposedly exempt from the Public Advocate’s list. Mysteriously, Kelly St. Restoration (Workforce Housing Advisers) appears on both the exempt list and the Worst Landlord List.
  • Number 14 on the list – JMR 7A 4619 Park Avenue – is not a landlord at all, but a 7A administrator. Bronx Courts have removed the landlord, and in its place appointed Fordham Bedford Housing Corp to manage the building. 7A administrators are appointed by judges to stabilize some of the worst buildings in the city. The program puts pre-qualified agents in place of the management company with the intention of putting a bad building back on the right track. Fordham Bedford Housing Corp is a trusted housing advocacy and community group with deep ties to the Bronx neighborhood in which this building is located.
  •  Number 38 on the list – Far Out LLC – in a very high profile case entered into an agreement with tenants and with HPD to stabilize this building and the 9 others associated with it. Though this particular preservation deal was very controversial,  it was eventually supported by both tenants and by HPD and so far the landlord appears to be complying with reducing violations without passing costs onto tenants.

Now in its third year, the list has made some real improvements, including a new partnership with Craig’s List that allows apartment-seekers to have information about bad landlords close at hand while they search. We’re thrilled that the Public Advocate has taken this project on, and it has definitely encouraged and inspired some of the tenants we work with to fight for their buildings. However, there is room for growth. For example, we’d love to see the list note where buildings are in foreclosure, as it indicates that the building may actually be managed by a court-appointed receiver. We’d also love to see the list get behind the curtain of the LLC and really take slumlords to task for all their properties. We’re excited to watch this resource improve.

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2 responses to “Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlord List: A Resource with Room to Improve

  1. Office of NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio July 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you Cea & the team for the excellent recommendations. We’ve vetted the 3 properties that you referenced and they have now been moved from the Worst Landlords Watchlist to our “Buildings in Rehabilitation” list. We will keep working to strengthen this resource and greatly appreciate your feedback. — Office of NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio

  2. ninaj October 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    We rented this townhouse at 1313 Wilderness Ln, Titusville, Fl 32796 from MARK and VIRGINIA BLOSSER for $650 a month. It is a really nice looking townhome in a quiet area. Things started breaking little by little, when we would make a report to get these items fixed if and when the property manager sent someone she would send these creepy/scary looking people late at night. After awhile they would just ignore any of our request and complaints to have anything fixed. My husband told the property manager MELISSA CRISS (SHARP PROPERTIES INC.) we would not pay the rent if they could not make the home habitable, and to send somebody to fix the refrigerator and the air conditioner at least. Mid-month after going in circles with Mrs. Melissa Criss the owner MARK BLOSSER lives in Tucson, Arizona area called us and said he would evict us for not paying rent for the month and he would take care of all the issues later. Eventually we did pay they rent only so we would not get thrown into the street. They still did not fix the air or the refrigerator almost 3 months later (in Florida we really do need air conditioner, open windows does very little in 90 degree weather), then other little things were still breaking (bathroom sink stopped up, garbage disposal didn’t work and very little hot water for one person let alone three people. We told him we would be reporting him to the rental protection agency if this continued. I really don’t think they had the money fix anything or maybe just refused because. Even though they have a property manager he continued to call day and night, threatening us to pay the rent or leave . He later said if we left voluntarily before the lease finished, give him 30 written notice and sign some kind discretion agreement it would not go as a eviction but we would not be getting our deposit back. We are trying to buy a house so a eviction would damage our credit. We found another house for rent to own and broke the lease, they made live there so unbearable we had to go and hope for the best, we never did get any eviction notice from him. He has other property and timeshare rentals so I think he knows how to bend the lease agreement to benefit himself. He tries to intimidate you, talks to like you like your nobody and you have no choice but to do what he says, he is arrogant, rude and disrespectful, he worst. I’m sure this is a habit and just his way of doing business. I just wonder how long… Real slumlord, MARK BLOSSER.

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