New York City has myriad regulations for property owners.
Violate one and there’s a fine.
But one owner – who was fined – is fighting back because he was fined for something that happened at his property before he owned it, so he couldn’t do what the city demanded.
Further, the city refused even to allow a hearing, at which he could explain the problem.
It is the Institute for Justice’s Dan King who has explained the problem for Serafim Katergaris in an online report.
He was fined $1,000 by the New York Department of Buildings because a previous owner of one of his properties had removed a boiler from the home.
When that happened, the previous owner had filed the required permits and documentation linked to the removal. But he apparently had failed to file documentation of an inspection for the year before.
“When Serafim bought a home in Harlem in 2014, it did not have a boiler,” the IJ reported.
He was unaware there was a missing inspection report, which did not appear on a title search because the DOB takes “up to two years to report violations.”
“When Serafim went to sell the house in 2021, he learned for the first time of the missing 2013 report, that he would need to pay $1,000 for the previous owner’s mistake and that a current inspection would need to be completed – an impossible task for a long-gone boiler,” the IJ reported.
He asked for a hearing and was refused.
“Sadly, this is a regular practice of the DOB,” the IJ explained, and that has resulted in its class-action lawsuit that seeks to “end New York City’s system of issuing fines to property owners while denying them a hearing or an appeal.”
“Issuing someone a fine without notice and then giving them no way to challenge it is a blatant violation of basic due process rights,” explained Bill Maurer, a senior lawyer for IJ. “No single agency should be able to act as cop, judge and jury. The Constitution requires that everyone gets an opportunity to challenge their penalty in front of a neutral party – the fact that it costs the city money to comply with the Constitution does not mean that the DOB just gets to ignore it.”
Serafim said, in a statement released through the IJ, “This lawsuit isn’t about me, it’s about the basic principle that nobody should be punished without a hearing or a chance for an appeal. The city punished me for someone else’s mistake and then denied me a chance to point that out,” Serafim said. “This system is simply wrong, and I want to help ensure that other people don’t have to go through this.”
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