School investigators are probing a veteran school custodian who owns 10 houses in Queens worth a combined $5.8 million – and whose former employees contend they were paid with school funds to gut and renovate the homes. ProPublica reported yesterday on a related abuse, where landlords do register for rent stabilization then collect bigger rent increases than allowed by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board They do so in part by exploiting confusion about preferential” rents and whether newer buildings are rent-stabilized. To determine if a tax-advantaged building was registered, ProPublica cross-checked that data against a listing of properties receiving the tax breaks, known as 421-a and J51, published by the city’s Department of Finance.
City officials acknowledged there is a problem with registrations but were unable to explain how such a large number of landlords could be out of compliance. Type in your address to see if your building’s owner is receiving a property tax break that entitles you to a rent-stabilized lease. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said in emails that officials became cognizant” of the problem after de Blasio took office last year and took action promptly to address it.” The matter is now the subject of a multi-stage, multi-agency” enforcement effort, the spokesperson said.
While we cannot disclose details on an ongoing investigation, we will not stop until every property is brought into compliance,” the de Blasio spokesperson said. Announcing their August crackdown, Cuomo and Schneiderman said building owners who don’t register as rent-stabilized face serious legal consequences, including loss of their tax breaks, a rent freeze and paying triple the amount of overcharges any tenant might have received. In the past three years, only two landlords have lost their tax breaks for not following the rent-stabilization rules, city officials have said. Presumably her first campaign finance account is undergoing a post-election audit.
The two tax-incentive programs at issue together provide almost $1.4 billion in property tax savings to New York City real estate owners, with most of the money flowing to multifamily apartment buildings. Most of the buildings identified by ProPublica were repeat offenders: About 80 percent that didn’t register units in 2013 also didn’t do so from 2009 to 2012. A dual mandate is a controversial practise that allows politicians to hold more than one simultaneous elected office.
Landlords who receive the 421-a and J51 tax benefits are supposed to submit all the units in their properties to rent stabilization for the duration of their tax breaks, which can span up to 34 years and significantly lower property tax burdens, in some instances by more than 90 percent. To make sure they are doing so, the state requires landlords to register their rent-stabilized apartments annually and report each unit’s rent. Landlords who didn’t register used to be ineligible for rent increases But that changed in 1993, when the New York Legislature eliminated penalties for failing to register. As a result, it owes approximately $500,000 in New York City General Corporation Tax.