The Real Deal New York

Landlord malice seen rising in gentrified Brooklyn

High rents incentivize landlords to sabotage rent-stabilized buildings, report claims
February 25, 2014 11:51AM

As rents continue their upward climb in Brooklyn, the incidence of landlord sabotage appears to also be on the rise.

In neighborhoods where market-rate rents far exceed the amount tenants of rent-stabilized buildings pay, some landlords have taken to bullying residents out of their own homes in order to charge new tenants higher rent.

A number of landlords have intentionally started fires, damaged utility units, and even sabotaged vital support beams for certain apartments to drive occupants out, Gothamist reported. Marty Needelman, the executive director and general counsel of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, has seven cases concerning landlord sabotage on his desk, three of which landed in the last month, according to the article.

The article stated that one Brooklyn landlord who eliminated 15 of 17 tenants in his building got rid of the last two holdouts by forging ahead with renovations so debilitating that the Department of Buildings had to issue a vacate order. Another landlord, this one at 300 Nassau Avenue, allegedly took an ax to the water, heating and electrical units after tenants refused to leave.

Although the borough lost nearly 8,000 rent-regulated units between 2008 and 2011, neighborhoods in other boroughs, like Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Morningside Heights, lost around 10,000 units over the same period. But policy heads say in parts of Brooklyn, it’s more cost effective to get tenants out and put up a new building than it is to replace the tenants and charge higher rents — meaning landlords may have little to lose by damaging their property. [Gothamist] –– Angela Hunt