Repairing a Rental City
Landlords who can rack up 100 (much less 1000) violations without being punished probably aren’t going to make those changes or repairs. Under the current system, the city is just telling their children that they’ll get a time-out when Daddy finishes counting down from ten. But the numbers are going from ten to nine to eight to seven-and-a-half or seven-and-a -quarter or seven-and-an-eighth. At that rate, Dear Old Dad will never make it to zero.
While many public service jobs require licenses to practice—everything from doctors to beauticians—NYC landlords are exempt. Some of these landlords are easily responsible for hundreds of people on a daily basis. Few stylists can cut hair that fast. This is why individual cities are slowly taking up the practice of requiring that landlords be licensed as well. Cedar Rapids, Iowa enacted a licensing law that went into effect in early November, 2010. Those property owners who fail to maintain rental units can have their licenses revoked or denied for renewal.
Why isn’t this city licensing landlords as well? Currently, NYC has to wait for delinquent landlords to repay the $5.4 million spent on emergency repairs to *their* apartment buildings in 2009. Under a new system, the landlord would have simply lost their right to manage and collect money from their properties. We wouldn’t need an overfull housing court to give tenants a green light on collecting rent abatements because of repairs not made. The waiting—for tenants and government alike—would be over.
Requiring landlords to be licensed would bring about change for people living in unhealthy and dangerous conditions. The licensing fee itself would also be a source of revenue for the city. Instead of spending money to do a landlord’s job for them, the government could use extra funds to brighten the living environments of people who don’t have money to move to a different or “better” area of town. Maybe we can even throw some money toward buying a few new snowploughs.
And what of those landlords with licenses lost? Don’t underestimate money as a powerful motivator. Renters shouldn’t allow negligent landlords to continue collecting rent when their apartments are lacking necessary repairs, putting thousands of people in danger. While no one can force a landlord to give up or sell their property—and it would be a mess if any government tried—it seems within rights to keep them from making an income from a public service they are not performing. Have their tenants’ rent checks made out to “New York City” instead. Just see how long it takes for those leaky pipes to get fixed.