NYC public advocate: Banks must pressure bad landlords

- New York City official is shining a spotlight on the banks behind some notorious landlords and hopes to use those banks to force the landlords to fix up their buildings. Public Advocate Letitia James has a so-called worst landlords list. Now she is going after the banks that fund those worst landlords.

"Banks should not be doing business with individuals who ignore city policy and put New Yorkers in harm's way," James said Tuesday.

Joined by tenants' associations and community groups, James unveiled the 10 banks that loan to the most buildings owned by the city's worst landlords. The list includes Signature Bank with 58 loans totaling $130 million, Capital One Bank with 24 loans worth $30 million, and Chase Bank with 19 loans totaling $20 million.

"These banks must take responsibility for the role they play in helping to create unsafe, unhealthy housing conditions for New Yorkers," James said. "Conditions like no heat, no hot water, mold, rodents, broken locks and more."

The public advocate is calling on the 10 banks to reform their lending practices and use their economic leverage to make the worst landlords fix their buildings.

"If a landlord is on the worst landlords watch list, banks should make loans contingent upon the landlord's removal and correction of these violations," James said.

Capital One did not want to comment on this issue.

Signature Bank, however, released a lengthy statement saying, in part, "If banks did not lend to these borrowers, who would be fixing up these buildings to make them livable residences? Signature Bank has placed conditions on the loans it extends and contingencies with the borrowers that such improvements must be made. The bank tracks the progress regularly, closely and carefully."

Fox 5 has not heard back yet from other banks we called.

The public advocate said that a bill pending in the City Council would prohibit landlords from getting permits if they have outstanding violations and if they are on the list of worst landlords list.

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