New NYC Mold Violations Put Tenants in Driver’s Seat (and Landlords Along for the Ride)
While the newly implemented Asthma-Free Housing Act may bring a breath of fresh air to some New York City tenants, many landlords hit with the onerous new violations will find themselves choking on the costs.
The regulations, which went into effect January 19, are meant to hold landlords responsible for removing allergy triggers, like pests and mold. Now, landlords of buildings with three apartments or more are required to perform annual inspections of units and common areas and mitigate problems — like leaks and nests — that could lead to asthma issues.
Of course, trying to cut down on New York City residents suffering from the disease isn’t a bad thing. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 10 percent of adults living in the city are asthmatic, compared to 7.5 percent nationwide. And for the past five years, New York City has been consistently above the national average.
The problem, according to Wayne Stock, owner of Stock Environmental Consulting, is that the new regulations don’t allow any room for a landlord to contest a tenant’s Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) report and costs to inspect and remediate run into the thousands of dollars.
“Once a tenant calls HPD to report mold, there’s no way to contest it if the city inspector determines that there is mold,” says Stock, explaining that one inspector might see visible mold on a wall and say it needed to be removed, while another inspector might not require such drastic measures.
“It’s completely arbitrary,” he adds. “There’s no accepted standard for determining the presence of mold, like there is with asbestos and lead-based paint.”
Landlords who receive an HPD violation are now forced to hire a New York State licensed mold assessor and a separate New York State licensed mold remediator. The job then must be filed with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
So, what’s a landlord hit with an HPD violation supposed to do? Stock suggests avoiding getting a violation in the first place, because once it’s received, there’s no turning back. He suggests taking the following proactive steps:
- Respond immediately: If a tenant complains, Stock says the best course of action is to address their complaints immediately and take necessary steps to mitigate before they call HPD.
- Impose more stringent vetting: Landlords can also filter applications of potential tenants using the tenant blacklist. Tenant screening bureaus comb computers for cases filed in New York City Housing Court, which landlords can purchase, to see whether a potential tenant is on the list and brings with him, along with a couch and a bed, a litigious nature.
- Any questions? Call Stock Environmental 732-383-5190 if you are unsure about this new regulations or have received a complaint about mold in one of your buildings. Licensed in New York, Stock Environmental has two decades’ experience navigating city housing laws and can help put preventative measures in place to avoid onerous fees.
“The bottom line is that, for now, the renter’s word is — unfortunately— usually final,” says Stock. “All landlords can do is make sure there’s nothing to complain about.”