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Governor Cuomo Cracks Down on Landlords Who Illegally Remove Buildings' Central Heating System

New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Tenant Protection Unit and Office of Rent Administration launch proactive heat removal prevention initiative

HCR mandates that heating systems be restored and that rent-regulated tenants not be forced to pay for their own heating where building-wide heat has been unlawfully removed

Governor Cuomo announced the first results of an ongoing investigation that uncovered the illegal removal of central heating systems in over two dozen rent regulated buildings in New York City impacting 145 tenants. Landlords, who are required by law to pay for and provide heat and hot water to rent regulated tenants, had replaced their central heating systems with individual apartment meters, forcing tenants to pay for their own heat.

"My administration is committed to protecting the rights of all tenants, and this action is another example of how we are standing up for New Yorkers and holding unscrupulous landlords accountable," said Governor Cuomo. "These landlords are going to restore their central heating systems, and others should be aware that we will not hesitate to crack down on any illegal behavior.”

Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal James S. Rubin said, “The Governor is dedicated to pursuing every opportunity to protect the rights of tenants. The Tenant Protection Unit and the office of rent administration are at the forefront of proactive enforcement and this is another example.”

In the course of joint City-State neighborhood inspections and thanks to tips from advocates and elected officials, the Tenant Protection Unit uncovered a pattern of abuse in several dozen buildings, mainly in neighborhoods where real estate prices are rising, including Bushwick and Williamsburg. In rent regulated buildings, the removal of the central heating system and replacement with individual apartment systems without HCR’s prior approval constitutes a reduction in basic building services.

HCR sent letters identifying the violations found and the necessary steps the owners of the buildings in question must take to rectify their illegal acts, including restoring the proper heating system and reimbursing tenants for costs they may have already incurred for heat and hot water, and ensuring no costs are passed on to tenants in the future. If owners ignore the letters, the TPU will take aggressive proactive enforcement steps with HCR’s Office of Rent Administration for service reductions and future rent credits for money paid to utility companies, with the possibility of additional overcharge proceedings.

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, who represents the Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn, said: “I commend the Governor’s TPU and ORA for taking this proactive step to protect some of our most vulnerable neighbors. No one should have to choose between paying the heat in winter and other vital expenses.”

Senator Martin Malavé Dilan said: “The Governor’s Tenant Protection Unit has continued its historic efforts in protecting tenants. I am proud to partner with the Governor’s team as part of the North Brooklyn and Ridgewood Task Forces to ensure that long-time residents are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. Congratulations TPU and ORA on another victory for rent regulated tenants.”

Shekar Krishnan, Director of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A’s Preserving Affordable Housing Program, said: “It is imperative that HCR continues to take these kinds of proactive steps to ensure that tenant rights are protected, and those who violate them are brought to justice. It is the only way to effectively deter tenant harassment and other illegal practices by landlords that force low-income families from their homes, especially in gentrifying communities. Brooklyn A will continue to fight for the preservation of affordable housing and against neighborhood displacement. We are proud to have a partner in HCR.”

‚ÄčTo date, the TPU has recaptured close to 50,000 apartments that landlords had improperly deregulated, saving the state over a billion dollars in construction and rehabilitation costs, and among other initiatives and investigations, announced comprehensive, corporate compliance settlements with landlords who were systematically harassing rent-regulated tenants in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Upper Manhattan and the Flatbush/Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Since January 2015 and as of November’s end, HCR’s Office of Rent Administration issued 560 Rent Overcharge Orders establishing legal rents and directing refunds in excess of $ 2.1 million and 652 Lease Renewal Orders; approved 751 Major Capital Improvement Orders for the installation of new items such as boilers, windows and roofs, provided 773 building owners with technical assistance concerning online filings and helped more than130,000 tenants and owners gain access to records, applications and information.

If you live in a rent stabilized apartment and feel you are being harassed call ORA and TPU at (718) 739-6400.