Letitia James Breaks City Rules With Rental Property, Records Show

By James Fanelli on June 9, 2014 6:27am 

 Public Advocate Letitia James's three-story rental property (centered, behind tree) has not been registered with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 2007 — a violation of city law that could bring a fine of $500. The property has 12 open HPD violations, three of which occurred since she became the owner.
Public Advocate Letitia James's three-story rental property (centered, behind tree) has not been registered with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 2007 — a violation of city law that could bring a fine of $500. The property has 12 open HPD violations, three of which occurred since she became the owner.
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DNAinfo New York/James Fanelli

FORT GREENE — Public Advocate Letitia James, whose job involves keeping tabs on bad landlords, has been breaking city rules with her brownstone rental property for seven years and could face a $500 penalty, DNAinfo New York has learned.

James has failed to register her four-unit building with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 2007, records show. The public advocate also has 12 open housing code violations on the Fort Greene property — three of which were issued since James purchased the home, according to HPD records.

Landlords of multiple-unit buildings are required under city rules to register with HPD. The rule helps protect tenants' rights, giving them and the city a point of contact in case of an emergency or another problem at a property.

Owners who do not register their properties face a fine of between $250 and $500, according to the city’s administrative code law. If the owner is found to have “willfully or recklessly” failed to register with HPD or made false statements on a registration form, he or she could face as much as a year in prison, according to another administrative code law.

Aja Davis, a spokeswoman for James, told DNAinfo New York that the violations predate James' ownership of the home. Records show that statement is incorrect.

James purchased the home in 2001. Between 2003 and 2004, HPD issued three violations to her — all for not having adequate lighting outside the front entranceway. The other nine open violations were issued between 1981 and 1990.

HPD said in a statement that it will reach out to James to inform her about registering her property, adding that the agency doesn't take enforcement action against responsible landlords, noting that no tenants have made made a complaint against James in 12 years.

The public advocate's website keeps a running list of the city's worst landlords based on HPD violations. In April, James highlighted the terrible conditions at an accused slumlord's building in Bushwick and called out HPD to make emergency repairs.

DNAinfo reported last week that Mayor Bill de Blasio's rental property in Park Slope is also not properly registered with HPD. He's been unable to register because he needs a key document from the Buildings Department, which has denied his requests twice in the past five months.

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