NYC’s ‘Worst Landlord’ Slammed With $235K in Fines After HPD Investigation

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A  Brooklyn-based landlord who has topped the New York City public advocate’s “Worst Landlord Watchlist” two years in a row will now have to pay a hefty fine — as well as make needed repairs for tenants — after an investigation by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) found numerous violations and unsafe conditions in his properties.

The agency announced Monday that Jason Korn as part of a settlement will need to pay $235,000 in civil penalties and correct all outstanding housing code violations on his properties within the next 90 days while complying with the city’s tenant harassment laws.

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Korn had the dubious honor of ranking No. 1 on the Worst Landlord list in 2020, with up to 1,822 open violations across 10 buildings out of the 55 he owned at the time, while in 2019 his properties averaged 2,877 open violations over the course of the year.

“Landlords have a responsibility to provide safe housing for their tenants, and, when they fail to meet that responsibility, there needs to be consequences,” HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said. “Even while we offer assistance to tenants and landlords who are struggling to maintain their properties, landlords should know that HPD will also use the full weight of its enforcement capabilities if they repeatedly fail to uphold their obligation to ensure that New Yorkers live in safe and secure housing.”

HPD’s Anti-Harassment Unit and the Division of Code Enforcement’s investigation focused on six of Korn’s buildings — four in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan — in which the agency noted “hundreds of violations.”

The agency found that Korn’s organization had a “pattern of gross building neglect” for its properties, which resulted in unsafe living conditions that included infestations of roaches and mice, mold, lead-based paint, and water leaks. Korn is also believed to have falsely certified that the conditions were corrected.

The settlement comes less than a year after Korn’s tenants at 1616 President Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, went on a rent strike, an action Korn responded to with threats of eviction against those refusing to pay up for deplorable living conditions, Curbed reported in November 2020.

Korn’s attorney, John Bianco, told Commercial Observer that it’s unlikely his client will be on Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ next watchlist, as 80 to 90 percent of those violations in the 2020 report have been resolved. 

Bianco and his client accepted the settlement from HPD before matters could go to litigation, meaning the violations will be removed if inspectors verify that complaints have been resolved within 90 days.

About half of the fines have already been paid, according to Bianco.

“Mr. Korn is not a bad person. He doesn’t try or intend to harass anyone,” Bianco said. “He’s doing what he needs to do to run a building during a pandemic, and he will be sure that he’s not on the list in the coming years.”

While the 1919 President Street location was not within the scope of the investigation, Korn’s buildings at 1921 Avenue I, 1439 Ocean Avenue, 578 East 17th Street, 250 East 29th Street in Brooklyn and 192 Nagle Avenue and  200 Nagle Avenue in Inwood were examined by HPD.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.