NYC Public Advocate, Press Release
Public Advocate Letitia James unveiled the ten banks that loan to the most buildings owned by the City’s Worst Landlord Watchlist. She called on these banks to reform their lending practices to protect tenants. Each year, Public Advocate James releases the Worst Landlords Watchlist, designed to hold the City’s worst landlords accountable and to empower tenants and advocates. This is the first time the financial backing of these landlords has been revealed.
“Banks should put their money where their values are, and stop funding the City’s Worst Landlords until they fix unsafe housing conditions,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Banks must use their economic leverage to get bad landlords to take responsibility for maintaining basic living conditions in their buildings. We won’t rest until every single tenant has access to safe housing all across New York City.”
Public Advocate James analyzed the ten banks that loaned the most money to the landlords on this year’s Worst Landlords Watchlist:
- Signature Bank (58 Loans, $130,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Capital One (24 Loans, $30,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Customers Bank (20 Loans, $40,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- JPMorgan Chase (19 Loans, $20,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- New York Community Bank (15 Loans, $30,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Dime Community Bank (12 Loans, $15,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Investors Bank (11 Loans, $12,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Peapack-Gladstone Bank (10 Loans, $15,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Deutsche Bank (6 Loans, $10,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
- Astoria Bank (6 Loans, $8,000,000 aggregate amount of mortgages held)
Public Advocate James called on the banks to modify their practices when making loans to landlords. The reforms she called for include:
- Banks should incorporate a landlord’s presence on the Worst Landlords Watchlist, as well as current violations, hazardous conditions, and findings of harassment when evaluating a property for a loan;
- If a landlord is on the Worst Landlords Watchlist, banks should condition the loan on the removal of Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Department of Buildings (DOB) violations, and assess future property revenue only on the current rent roll; and,
- If a landlord is placed on the Worst Landlords Watchlist after receiving a loan, the bank should appoint a liaison to work with the landlord and tenants on a remediation plan that includes monthly inspections. If the landlord defaults on the remediation plan, the bank should foreclose on the property and appoint a receiver.
Public Advocate James also called on the City to adapt its practices. She called for:
- HPD or DOB to do point of sale/loan floor to ceiling inspections;
- City Council to pass legislation that she has introduced to prevent landlords on the Worst Landlords Watchlist from acquiring building permits; and,
- The New York City Banking Commission to examine the list of banks doing business with the City of New York for overlap with the above listed banks.
“Banks are literally financing the destruction of affordable housing by bankrolling landlords who harass rent-regulated tenants and push them out of their apartments in my Senate district,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman. “Financial institutions should act responsibly and cut off the flow of money to the bad landlords identified by Public Advocate.”
“I applaud Public Advocate Letitia James for these proposals which could have a very significant impact on countless New Yorkers,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. “Banks should not be aiding and abetting bad landlords. They should not be doing business with landlords who have large numbers of outstanding violations. The increase in homelessness is in large part due to the fact that housing has become increasingly unaffordable for more and more New Yorkers. Banks should be part of the solution to this problem, not the problem itself.”
“Banks are supposed to support the stability and economic health of the communities they serve, not help underwrite shady landlords and other bad actors who seek to maximize their profits by making tenants lives hell and housing unaffordable,” said Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. “Tish James is truly serving as the Public Advocate by focusing a spotlight on banks that help enable abusive landlords and by calling for sensible and much-needed reforms.”
“I salute Public Advocate Tish James for bringing attention to this situation in which certain banks are co-conspirators with slumlords in helping wreak pain and suffering on the lives of tenants. Shame on these banks. Shame!” said Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda.
“The Public Advocate’s Worst Landlord List works because it puts pressure on bad landlords, but the lenders behind those landlords are just as much a part of the story” said Jaime Weisberg, the Senior Campaign Analyst at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. “All housing markets need lending. Bad mortgage underwriting feeds and encourage the notorious landlords on the Public Advocate’s list, but responsible lending helps keep our neighborhoods affordable. ANHD and the Public Advocate have long asked all banks, and especially those that lend on rent-regulated multifamily housing, to commit to a set of best practices to preserve this stock of housing. – responsible underwriting, appropriate vetting of borrowers, and responding to tenants when issues arise. Practices like these will go a long way towards preserving one of the most important sources of private affordable housing we have in the City.”
“By financing the city’s worst landlords, banks are directly fueling – and profiting from – tenant harassment, unsafe living conditions, and displacement,” said Deyanira Del Rio, Co-Director, New Economy Project. “This is yet another way banks destabilize and extract from communities of color. We join the Public Advocate in calling on NYC to hold banks and landlords accountable, and to use every tool at its disposal to protect affordable housing and the right of low income New Yorkers to live with dignity in our city.”
“Stabilizing NYC stands with the Public Advocate on the creation of a list of lenders who finance millions of dollars to known bad landlords,” said SaMi Chester, Stabilizing NYC. “It is imperative that banks are held accountable. We believe that this is a bold and progressive first step to challenge predatory lenders to do the right thing when it comes tenants, in the City of New York.”
“It’s deeply troubling that these banks are financing slumlords who neglect and harass tenants across our city, instead of providing the safe, healthy homes they are legally required to,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “JPMorgan Chase, for instance, has $20,000,000 in mortgages held by these slumlords, and it must act immediately to stop the reckless behavior that it is financing. We applaud Public Advocate James for releasing this data and working to hold these banks accountable.”
“We have all types of vermin that go unchecked throughout the building — things like flies, hornets, water bugs and rats,” said William Henry, President of the 101 Lincoln Road Tenants Association, a building which was funded by JPMorgan Chase. “There are many apartments with mold due to water leaks. Our landlords has been fined multiple times, and claims he has no money for repairs, but has been able to refinance the building multiple times. Thank you to Public Advocate James for calling on the bank that is allowing our landlord to treat us this way.”