Audit of NYCHA’s Controls over Heat Maintenance revealed inefficiencies in work order tracking system and inadequate boiler inspection. On May 28, 2020, the Office of the Comptroller released the results of its audit of the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) controls over heat maintenance. The audit report stated that NYCHA’s current system for tracking heating complaints is inefficient, and NYCHA’s system for tracking its boilers is inaccurate and uncomprehensive. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer called for NYCHA to upgrade NYCHA’s system during warmer weather before “thousands more residents are left in the cold again.”
NYCHA’s current system for tracking heating complaints tracks individual work orders (heating issues affecting single apartments) differently than how the system tracks system-wide failures (heating issues affecting entire halls or buildings). NYCHA’s system tracks the status and resolution of system-wide work orders, but the system is not able to track the status and resolution of work orders affecting individual units.
As a result, when a resident places a heat-related work order that only affects their apartment, NYCHA’s tracking system is unable to track the status of the complaint, the length of time the work order is left open, or the accuracy of the repair after it is completed. NYCHA’s system is also unable to track the number of individual complaints open at one time.
According to NYCHA’s records, 167,752 no-heat work orders were created during the 2017-2018 heating season (October 1st through May 31st), and 49 percent of these work orders were system-wide heating outages. As a result, only 49 percent of work orders were able to be fully tracked through their resolution.
The audit also stated that NYCHA’s system for tracking its boilers is incomplete. The system does not include NYCHA’s entire inventory of boilers and does not track installation dates, warranty information, repair history, or inspection dates. This information is necessary to ensure all required inspections are completed. According to the audit, NYCHA conducted only 84 percent of the required inspections during the 2017-2018 heating season.
NYCHA’s internal policy mandates that steps to assess each work order must be taken within a 24-hr period. However, according to the audit, approximately 23 percent of heat-related work orders initiated by resident’s complaints during the 2017-2018 heating season were not closed within that period, although 91 percent were closed within 48 hours. The audit also stated that some work orders are closed for reasons other than completion, such as when an inspector is unable to gain access to the building or the resident who made the complaint is not home.
Lastly, the audit found that NYCHA does not use the feedback it solicits from its nearly 370,000 residents.
Comptroller Stinger made several recommendations for NYCHA in the audit:
– Create a more efficient and detailed tracking system for all heat-related complaints that enables NYCHA to promptly address issues, and to verify that work orders are completed properly.
– Monitor staffing levels related to heating processes.
– Utilize feedback given by residents to target and remedy problem areas within the system.
– Complete and update the list of boilers and the accompanying tracking and inspection information, then disseminate this list to all NYCHA units that are involved in heating processes.
NYCHA responded to the audit, accepting some recommendations, and disagreeing with others. NYCHA stated that it will analyze residents’ feedback, disseminate boiler inventory listings, and continue developing a tracking system for work orders created through boiler inspections. However, NYCHA claims that NYCHA already has an effective tracking system for heat-related complaints, has a complete inventory of boilers, and adequately monitors staffing levels.
The boiler audit follows last summer’s Comptroller audit of NYCHA roof repairs, which showed that the agency wasted over $3.7 million to replace roofs that were still under warranty. For CityLand’s prior coverage, click here.
By: Victoria Agosta (Victoria is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)