LAGN Housing Assistance Reform Proposals for
Niagara County Department of Social Services

2. Make mandatory and a condition of move in the inspection of the rental unit each DSS Client/Tenant selects.

The New York State legislature codified the implied warranty of habitability in Real Property Law section 235-b,3.

In every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential premises the landlord or lessor shall be deemed to covenant and warrant that the premises so leased or rented and all areas used in connection therewith in common with other tenants or residents are fit for human habitation and for the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to their life, health or safety. When any such condition has been caused by the misconduct of the tenant or lessee or persons under his direction or control, it shall not constitute a breach of such covenants and warranties.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities… (The Center is supported by a number of foundations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, as well as individual donors. It accepts no government support.)

“Research has shown that many of these families [recipients of TANF benefits] have barriers to employment that likely impeded their ability to meet the state’s expectations. These barriers include: mental and physical impairments; substance abuse; domestic violence; low literacy or skill levels; learning disabilities; having a child with a disability; and problems with housing, child care, or transportation.”

In addition to impeding employment, several of the characteristics listed above also negatively impact good judgment and or are endemic of a lack of experience when selecting a habitable apartment. DSS Client/Tenants are seldom versed in what constitutes “Implied Warranty of Habitability”.

HQS – Housing Quality Standards – A working Model

Housing Quality Standards is a standard based list of criteria established by HUD. This list covers 13 aspects of housing quality and acceptability and is administered by the inspection arm of the local Section 8 Leased Housing office. The 13 major points are listed below.

• Sanitary facilities;
• Food preparation and refuse disposal;
• Water supply;
• Lead-based paint;
• Space and security;
• Access;
• Thermal environment;
• Illumination and electricity;
• Site and neighborhood;
• Structure and materials;
• Interior air quality;
• Sanitary condition; and
• Smoke Detectors.

These are broad-brush strokes. HUD has a complete and detailed move in checklist, which is performed prior to the Client taking possession of the selected apartment. Items not meeting HQS necessarily do not meet the Implied Warranty of Habitability. Those items not meeting HQS must be repaired prior to occupancy.

We feel it unnecessary to go into details at this time as the Section 8 Leased Housing inspection program has a historic track record and can serve as an excellent starting point for program development.

On the face of it, mandatory inspections of housing units occupied by DSS Clients would appear to be another burden placed on an already taxed Social Services budget. We contend that units meeting the same HQS, as required by Leased Housing, would reduce administrative costs by reducing the incidence of conflict from legitimate claims of inhabitability and increasing stability of the DSS Client and subsequent savings to the client inherent with frequent moving.

 

Continue to Proposal 3 - Tenant Accountability

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