Community Resource Guide

table of contents

Information on Physical Conditions

Now that you have gathered basic information on the building you are interested in, you can start to dig into its physical condition. There are two main sources of information on the physical condition of a building - the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) and the Department of Buildings (DOB). HPD is charged with developing and maintaining the city's stock of affordable housing; it also enforces the City's Housing Maintenance Code. DOB issues building permits and enforces the City’s zoning regulations; it also carries out building inspections to ensure safety. In this step we will discuss how to analyze the information that they track. Below is information about the different types of violations that can be issued and a brief explanation of the penalties the landlord faces if they fail to address them.

Both HPD and DOB violations are initiated by 311 complaints. Depending on the type of condition described, the complaint will be routed to either HPD or DOB.

It is important to keep in mind that the violation system is imperfect in many ways when analyzing the data. Low levels of violations, or lack entirely thereof, may not mean that a building is in good condition. There may be serious issues in the building that are going unreported due to tenants fearing harassment or retaliation. There could also be violations that were issued years ago and subsequently rectified yet they still appear as open in the data. For this reason, we tend to think of more recently issued violations, those issued within the past 12 months, as more relevant. However at the end of the day, the best way to really understand what conditions are like in a building is to speak with the tenants who live there.

  • HPD Violations

When a complaint about building conditions is called into 311, it will be routed to HPD. Inspectors will then be sent to the building to determine whether or not a violation should be issued. They can also write violations for other conditions they see while they are in the building. Once a violation has been issued, the landlord has a set amount of time to certify the correction of the condition before penalties are given.

There are 4 classes of HPD violations that indicate different levels of severity. They have different certification timeframes and potential penalties for failure to correct. Click here to see a list of what types of conditions may constitute the different classes of violations. You can read more about the actual dollar amounts associated with different violations here.

  1. A - Non-Hazardous: Landlords can have between 14 and 90 days to correct non-hazardous conditions. If they fail to do so they can face civil penalties and litigation.

  2. B - Hazardous: Landlords have between 5 and 30 days to correct hazardous conditions within their buildings. Failure to do so may result in civil penalties and/or litigation.

  3. C - Immediately Hazardous: For hazardous conditions, landlords have 24 hours to 5 days to correct the issue. If the violation is issued due to the presence of lead or a lack of window guards, the landlord has 21 days. If the violation was issued due to a lack of heat and hot water, the landlord must correct it immediately. Heat and hot water violations carry a penalty of $250 per day. All immediately hazardous conditions are eligible for the Emergency Repair Program (ERP).

  4. I: These violations are issued when there is an underlying condition in the building such as mold or water leaks. They can also be issued when the building owner fails to register with HPD.

  • DOB & ECB Violations

When a complaint is related to construction, the structure of a building, or equipment within the building such as the boiler or the elevator, it will be routed to DOB. Click here to see a list of complaint categories and their priority levels. DOB can also issue violations without a complaint being logged if buildings fail to file all of their required paperwork.

Sometimes, DOB will issue violations in conjunction with the Environmental Control Board (ECB). These violations typically come with a fine. In order for a landlord to clear a DOB-ECB violation they must submit a certificate of correction to DOB as well as address the ECB fine and hearing (this hearing is referred to as an OATH hearing). There are 3 classes of DOB-ECB violations

  1. Class 1 - Immediately Hazardous

  2. Class 2 - Major/Hazardous

  3. Class 3 - Lesser

Both Class 2 and 3 violations are issued with cure dates. If the landlord certifies the correction of the condition by the cure date, they can avoid the ECB hearing and the paying of additional fines. Class 1 violations, however, do not have a cure date. This means that regardless of how quickly the landlord addresses the condition they must attend the hearing and face fines from ECB in order to close the violation. You can read more about how different conditions are classified and the penalties associated with them here. Notably, increased aggregated penalties may be imposed if the landlord has received a violation for the same condition previously.

Now that you have some background on the different types of violations, let's look at how you can find data for specific buildings.

  1. HPD - HPD violation data is available in two places. The first is the HPD website. Once you search for your BBL of interest, you will land on a page with lots of information. Warning: the website is often really slow, but it has a lot of useful information!

In the middle of the page the current registered owner’s information will be displayed. If the owner has not registered with HPD, or their registration has expired there will be a message stating so. Registering with HPD is important because without doing so a landlord is unable to certify the correction of violations. For some buildings there will be a message at the top of the page stating that the building may contain rent stabilized units.

On the left hand side of the page there are various topics you can choose from. If you select ‘All Open Violations’ you can look at all of the violations the building currently has. It will give you a description of the condition, the violation class, and its current status. You may notice that there are some really old violations still hanging around that may not be relevant/still an issue. If you want to get a better picture of what is happening in the building right now, you can look at ‘prior year open violations’. This tab will show you all of the open violations that were issued in the past 12 months. You can also look at complaint information under ‘complaint history’.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself as you look at these pages:

  • Does the building have a really high number of open violations per unit?

  • How many of the violations are class C?

  • Were a lot of violations opened in the past year? What percentage of the total open violations are from the past 12 months?

  • Does it seem like there are a lot of complaints being made by tenants in the building?

The second place that you can find HPD violation data is the Open Data portal where HPD furnishes the Housing Maintenance Code Violations table. Click on ‘view data’ and you will be able to filter and export rows from the table. To read more on how to use the Open Data website, go to the Tools for Building Research section of this guide.

DOB - DOB violations are available in two places. The first option is to look up the BBL on the DOB BIS website. Here you will be able to see violations data as well as information about complaints.

Once you enter your building’s BBL, you will be able to see the total number of violations issued against the building, both DOB and ECB violations, as well as the number of violations that are currently open. This information will be displayed in the bottom left corner of the page in a table. You can click in and read additional information about the violations such as the date it was filed and the specific type of violation that was issued.

You can find this same information in tabular form in the DOB Violations table on Open Data.