Two years in the works, a bill to make landlords responsible for the cleanup of
indoor asthma triggers such as mold, rats, and cockroaches is close to becoming
If passed, the Asthma-Free Housing
Act (City Council Int. 750) would increase the presence of visible mold from a
level A violation to a level C violation. It would allow the Department of
Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to inspect residences at the request
of tenants and issue violations. Landlords whose tenants have respiratory
problems must fundamentally correct the infestation within 21 to 60 days of
receiving an HPD violation. If they don’t, it becomes the City’s burden to do
so. Following the cleanup, the landlord may be issued a fine or the tenants
could take their landlord to housing court.
The bill is sponsored by council member Rosie Mendez and has the
backing of 25 council members. Mendez and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum stood
with members of community group Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center,
and others to show their support of the bill.
Mendez likened asthma to other public health issues the city has
tackled. While the city has taken diligent steps against obesity and diabetes,
now is the time to take action against asthma, she said.
Attention to the health of indoor air has increased since the
Public Advocate’s 2006 report on mold, titled Unhealthy Exposure: Mold in New
York City Homes. In it, researchers wrote that though current guidelines for
mold remediation are not enough because they do not have the force of the law.
Without enforceable measures, landlords often simply paint over visible mold.
Cleanup crews are also not currently required to have licenses for mold
remediation. A bill in both the Assembly and Senate will require remediators to
be certified by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Housing in poorer neighborhoods are more
likely to have structural issues. Mold, rodent, and cockroach infestations are
present in 50-60 percent in areas such as upper Manhattan, Stuyvesant Town,
parts of Queens and Central Brooklyn, according to the 2008 Housing and Vacancy
survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Droppings from pests are known asthma
New York City has some of the
highest asthma rates among major cities, especially among children. New York was
rated number 39 among 50 cities for air quality in a study last year by Sustain
Lane, based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Council member Rosie Mendez and Public
Betsy Gotbaum join community groups in cheering on
a bill that will
make it a landlord’s responsibility to clean
up asthma triggers in buildings.
(Christine Lin/The Epoch Times)