Homes and Community Renewal Office of Rent Administration

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Homes and Community Renewal Office of Rent Administration
Administration of Tenant Complaints


Issued: December 11, 2014
Link to full audit report 2013-S-72
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Office of Rent Administration addresses tenant complaints in a timely manner. Our audit period includes tenantinitiated complaints received between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012.

Background
New York State Homes and Community Renewal consists of all the State’s housing and community renewal agencies. These agencies include the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (Division), which is responsible for the supervision, maintenance, and development of affordable low- and moderate-income housing in New York State. The Division’s Office of Rent Administration (Office), the subject of this audit, is responsible for administering New York State’s rent laws. These laws are designed to provide decent, affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers. According to Office records, it received 19,653 tenant complaints during the audit period, of which 17,716 were resolved by March 6, 2014. Office records indicate that 5,883 tenant complaints were open as of May 15, 2014, including complaints received prior to and after our three-year scope period. The most common tenant complaints received by the Office relate to rent overcharges and decreased landlord services.

Key Findings

  • Officials have not established criteria for how long it should take to assign, address, and/or resolve tenant complaints.
  • We observed that it took an average of 6.7 months for complaints just to be assigned to an examiner, with rent overcharge complaints taking an average of 14.8 months - and some as long as three years - to be assigned.
  • Of the complaints received in our scope period, 1,101 remained unassigned as of March 6, 2014, including 133 from 2010 and 2011.
  • A significant percentage of the tenant complaints resolved during the audit period (31 percent) took longer than a year to resolve, including 8 percent taking over two years, and some taking as long as four years.
  • Officials have not performed any recent staffing or productivity analyses to determine whether current staffing levels are adequate and whether existing employees are performing efficiently.

Key Recommendations

  • Establish criteria for the amount of time it should take to assign, address, and resolve tenant complaints, and document the reasons why cases are not resolved within the prescribed time frames.
  • Investigate the circumstances surrounding long-term open cases and take steps to resolve them.
  • Conduct an examiner staffing/productivity analysis and redeploy Office staff if necessary and as appropriate to align with complaint caseloads and complexity.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Housing Affordability in New York State (March 2014)
Division of Housing and Community Renewal: Quality of Internal Control Certification (2012-S-31)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Frank Patone
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236