The High Cost of Bad Landlords

Every year in New York City, there are over 200,000 eviction cases, over 20,000 evictions and approximately 500,000 housing code violations issued. Tenants and housing advocates have long complained that many evictions cases were not justified but rather part of a strategy of tenant harassment, in order to make lower paying tenants leave.

In order to inform tenants, housing advocates and policy makers, we sought to try and quantify these patterns.  In our newest report, The High Cost of Bad Landlords: Impacts of irresponsible building ownership in New York City, we painstakingly cleaned up and geocoded data in order to identify repeated patterns of both evictions and housing violations. We defined repeated patterns as buildings where the ratio of eviction cases divided by total residential units was 0.3 or greater, there were least two eviction filings in NYC’s housing court; and they were issued at least 10 housing code violations.

What we found was striking. From 2013 to mid 2015, the period for which we had evictions data available, forty-eight percent of evictions cases filed were for housing units in buildings with repeated patterns of both evictions and violations. This means harassment and neglect by bad landlords likely contributed to about 100,000 eviction cases and 10,000 evictions each year.

Furthermore, bad landlords do not impact everyone equally. The one million New Yorkers who live in buildings with bad landlords are more likely to have children and seniors that live at a poverty rate that is 50% higher than the rest the city. They are disproportionately people of color, and are heavily concentrated in the Bronx. One-fifth of families living in a building with a bad landlord face at least once eviction case a year. Residents displaced by bad landlords may lose access to educational and employment opportunities, and to their social network.  Remaining residents find themselves having to make difficult decisions such as whether to be late on rent or forgo a health treatment. And they may have little leverage in taking actions on poor housing conditions such as mold or lead.

Ultimately, all New Yorkers pay the cost.  Using conservative costs, we estimated that the minimum cost to the taxpayer from bad landlords is $307.1 million dollars annually, or nearly $100 per New York City household annually.

The recent increase in legal aid for renters is a significant and positive policy change that can help many of the people struggling from the consequences of bad landlords. But this report suggest that more can be done. Given that only 1.4% of residential buildings are managed by a bad landlord, policies that focus on place-based and landlord based enforcement should be explored.  



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