UNHP

Community Resource Guide

table of contents

Building Ownership

Frustratingly, it can be hard to tell who actually owns a building. There are two main sources that you can use to try and determine the owner - HPD Registration and ACRIS. These sources will not always provide the same information depending on how the owner has chosen to register and finance the property so it is important to look at both. By gathering a list of names and addresses associated with the property, you can search online to see if they are a known landlord and/or potentially own more buildings.

Oftentimes individuals and companies will create a limited liability company (LLC) when buying a building. For smaller landlords, LLCs provide financial protection; for larger landlords the LLC structure provides financial protection as well, but it also helps obscure who actually owns the property. You will very likely come across LLC names in both ACRIS and HPD. While this can sometimes feel like a deadend, there is a New York State dataset of LLCs which we discuss below. This dataset will not necessarily crack the question of who is behind the LLC, rather it is another source that may provide new information.

  • HPD Registration

Every residential building in NYC is required to register with HPD. If a building owner does not register with HPD or lets their registration expire they will be unable to clear any violations issued and they will be subject to civil penalties ranging from $250-$500. Importantly, failure to register with HPD could impact an owner’s ability to evict a tenant.

You can look up HPD registration information on the HDP Online website or through the Open Data portal - the data is stored across two tables Multiple Dwelling Registrations and Registration Contacts. There are multiple types of registrations, typically buildings will only have a few.

  • Individual Owner: This can be the name of the owner or someone who works with/in the corporation that owns the building.

  • Corporate Owner: This can be the name of the corporation that owns the building and/or the name of the management company.

  • Managing Agent: This can be the information about someone who works for the management company, or the name of someone associated with the owner/corporation.

  • Head Officer: This can be the name of the owner or someone who works for the corporation or LLC that owns the building.

  • Officer: This can be the name of the owner or someone who works for the corporation or LLC that owns the building.

  • Shareholder: This can be the name of the owner or someone who works for the corporation or LLC that owns the building.

Once you find these names you can try googling them with keywords like ‘real estate’ to try and determine companies / other individuals they are associated with.

To view the information on the HPD Online site simply enter your BBL and then click on Property Owner Registration Information on the left hand side. If the owner has not registered, or has allowed their registration to expire there will be a disclaimer. If you want to access the data in a tabular format, you will need to pull information from the two Open Data tables. First, use the Multiple Dwellings Registrations table to identify the ‘RegistrationID’ associated with your BBL. Then filter for that ID in the Registration Contacts table to find information on the different parties associated with the building.

  • ACRIS

ACRIS stands for the Automated City Register Information System. It allows you to look at property records for all NYC buildings except for those in Staten Island. The ACRIS Document Control Codes show the various document types available. To see what document types we find most useful see the Important/Main Types of Documents section in our ACRIS Guide [LINK].

When looking at documents you may see that there are multiple BBLs listed. This means that the owner has more than one property. Depending on your interests, you may want to look at the other buildings in the owner’s portfolio to get a fuller picture of the financing at play. A great way to get an initial feel for the other buildings within a portfolio is the Who Owns What tool developed by JustFix. If you are interested in further information about how to approach researching portfolios see the Research a Portfolio Guide [LINK].

  • Debt Level

Understanding the debt level of a building is key to understanding a building’s finances. When buildings have high levels of debt, they are responsible for high monthly mortgage payments - these debt service payments are often equal to 75% of a building’s net operating income (NOI) and assume that expenses will be very low. Owners will prioritize fulfilling their debt service as they could face foreclosure if they do not. This often means that there will not be enough money left to cover maintenance needs - hazardous conditions can develop and quality of life for the building’s tenants can deteriorate.

We have created more in depth resources on how to use ACRIS as well as how to understand landlords’ finances. We strongly recommend reading through them both to better orient yourself and paint a fuller picture of the building’s finances, but below we will briefly walk through how to locate the current mortgage on a property so that you can determine the current debt level. Knowing the current debt level is important because it can help you estimate the monthly debt service owed by the landlord.

Search property records using the parcel identifier, or BBL, on ACRIS. Find the most recent document with a document type of either ‘MTGE’ or ‘AGMT’. You can click on the gray ‘IMG’ button in the leftmost column to view the PDF of the document. There are a few useful pieces of information to note which we will walk through below.

Importantly, sometimes looking at the financing documents can allow you to figure out who actually owns a building. Many landlords will not include their name in a building’s HPD registration, but oftentimes they are the signatory on mortgages and agreements.

  • Current Lender

The lender will be listed as Party 2 for mortgages and agreements. It is good to know who is lending on a property because, with the high levels of debt on multifamily buildings in NYC that are rarely paid down, they are often in effect the landlord’s business partner. If an owner is neglecting the property and not responding to tenants, involving their lender may be an effective way to apply pressure and force them to make some improvements to the building.

  • Debt Level

The document amount will tell you how much debt is being taken on in the transaction. Recall, knowing the current debt level of a building is key to understanding how much money the landlord has to make repairs. If the building is saddled with debt, and therefore a high monthly debt service, the landlord most likely does not have much money left to actually maintain the building.

Note, sometimes these documents cover multiple buildings. Click into the PDF to see whether or not there are multiple properties listed on the cover page. If there is more than one, you can use the number of units in the building you are researching divided by the total number of units involved in the document to determine the correct percentage of the total document amount you should use in your analysis.

Also, if there are other buildings on the document, then they are also owned by the same landlord. If this is the case, it is a good idea to spend some time digging into their portfolio - all of the buildings that they own - in order to better understand their business strategy and their financial standing.

This database, maintained by the NYS Division of Corporations, allows you to search for a variety of corporations and businesses formed within the state. Importantly you are able to search for LLCs. This database can be useful when you are struggling to determine ownership as it can sometimes give you a new related address or, in rarer cases, a related name.

To use the database, simply enter the LLC name you are interested in - one that you found either through HPD Registration or ACRIS information - into the EntityName box. Select LimitedLiabilityCompany from the Entity list and search. You will then be taken to a list of results. Click on the matching name in order to see more detailed information. Hopefully, there will be an address that is associated with the entity. Sometimes there will be information about the people associated with the entity, but this is rare. Keep in mind, the information that you find through this database might not differ from what you were able to find via HPD Registration or ACRIS, but it is worth it to double check regardless. If you are able to find a new related name or address it could help you as you search for who the actual owner of the building is.