To determine the extent of implementation of the eight recommendations in our initial audit report, Heat and Hot Water Complaints (Report 2019-N-3).
About the Program
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. As a part of its mission to promote quality and affordability of housing, HPD works to protect tenants’ rights relating to the safety and condition of their housing. HPD’s Code Enforcement Division is responsible for ensuring that residential building owners comply with the New York City Housing Maintenance Code (Code) and the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law. Residential building owners must ensure that apartments in their buildings are safe and well-maintained, which includes providing adequate heat and hot water (HHW).
In accordance with the Code, residential building owners must supply their tenants with adequate heat from October 1 to May 31, the “heat season,” which translates to a minimum of 68°F between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when the outside temperature is below 55°F, and at least 62°F between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. regardless of the outside temperature. HPD requires all New York City tenant-occupied dwellings to provide hot water 24 hours a day at a minimum temperature of 120°F.
Tenants who believe they are not receiving the required services can file a complaint through New York City’s 311 municipal service system (NYC311). Complaints are automatically forwarded to HPD for response. HPD considers a HHW complaint addressed if, upon being contacted, a tenant states that service has been restored or if HPD conducted or attempted to conduct an inspection. When an inspection confirms that the building owner is not providing the required HHW, HPD issues a notice of violation to the building owner and can pursue progressive civil penalties through New York City Housing Court. According to HPD’s records, between January 1 and December 31, 2021, it received about 199,815 HHW complaints throughout the five New York City boroughs, mostly through NYC311.
The objectives of our initial audit report, issued on September 24, 2020, were to determine whether HPD addressed HHW complaints timely, issued notices of violation, and sought the imposition and collection of penalties as appropriate. The audit covered HHW complaints received during New York City fiscal years 2018 and 2019 (July 1, 2017–June 30, 2019). We found that HPD was not conducting HHW complaint inspections timely, taking an average of 2 to 3 days – with many cases taking 4 days or more – for complaints to be inspected. The audit also found that HPD did not establish a formal time frame for when an inspection should be completed relative to when the HHW complaint is received. It also did not provide tenants with a window of time for inspections. As a result, many scheduled inspections could not be performed due to a lack of access to apartments. Furthermore, hundreds of HHW complaints were incorrectly identified as duplicate complaints and thus not addressed by HPD. The audit also determined that where building owners were found to be in violation of the law, HPD settled cases for less – in some cases substantially less – than the minimum amount prescribed by law.
HPD officials have made some progress in correcting the problems we identified in the initial report. Of the initial report’s eight recommendations, three were implemented, two were partially implemented, and three were not implemented.
Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up review to provide information on any actions planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this review.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director:Kenrick Sifontes
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236