NY's Worst Landlords
New York’s Worst Landlords is a three-part documentary film by comedian/filmmaker Jeff Seal and filmmaking team The Libbey Brothers, available on YouTube in three parts, out March 25, 2021.
New York’s Worst Landlords:
Ep 1: The City’s Worst Landlord
Ep 2: The Once and Future Worst Landlord
Ep 3: Revenge of the Tenants
Echoing satirical muckraking efforts such as Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, New York’s Worst Landlords began as an attempt to interview the worst offenders on the New York City Advocate’s Office annual Worst Landlord Watchlist, which catalogs the worst repeat landlord offenders in New York City’s cutthroat and unaffordable rental market. The filmmakers were inspired in part by the Unsheltered series of articles in the NY Times about vulnerable New Yorkers being forced out of their rent-stabilized apartments by unscrupulous landlords
Filmmaker and Narrator Jeff Seal describes the filmmakers’ journey:
“We started simply trying to get an interview with any of the landlords on the Worst Landlord Watchlist, to ask what they were doing to make sure they wouldn’t end up on the list next year. At the same time, we started documenting the difficulties tenants face living under a ‘Bad Landlord.’ Unfortunately, it was a lot easier finding tenants willing to go on camera to complain about their landlords than it was finding landlords who would give their side of the story.”
The filmmakers soon discovered the herculean effort required to get in touch with, or to even identify who these landlords actually were, mirrored what tenants regularly endure to request repairs, lodge complaints, and survive as renters in NYC.
The team held a Jerry Lewis style telethon to call every landlord on the list, then resorted to showing up unannounced at the offices of the landlords, and even posed as landlords themselves to infiltrate a landlord convention, captured with hidden cameras. Needless to say, cease-and-desist letters followed and lawyers were retained.
Host Jeff Seal is a comedian, and New York’s Worst Landlords is comical, but it is also a serious indictment of the rental real estate industry in NYC that shows the audience what it looks like to prioritize profits over people. The team wanted to make the film entertaining and funny to engage the audience, but they were careful to respect the tenants who were courageous and kind enough to let them into their homes. In fact, the real stars of this docu-comedy are the tenants of New York. The heartbreak of their battles against mice, leaks, collapsing ceilings, surveillance cameras, and specious summonses to housing court is out-shined by their courage at staging a rent strike and an eventually victorious campaign – led mostly by women of color – to pass a once-in-a-generation slate of progressive rent law reforms in Albany. The film focuses on NYC, but New York’s Worst Landlords will resonate with everyone facing gentrification and sky-rocketing rents.
ABOUT JEFF SEAL
Jeff is comedian and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the Clown Conservatory at the San Francisco Circus Center and studied Decroux-based corporeal mime at the Hippocampe Project in Paris. He has been nominated for 4 Golden Clown Nose awards by the NY Downtown Clown Revue and has appeared on The Late Show with David Lettermen.
He is also a filmmaker whose films and documentaries have been shown on HBO, The Discovery Channel, AJ+ and gothamist.com. Jeff's viral videos have millions of views, were twice selected for Vimeo Staff Picks, made it to the front page of reddit, screened at international film festivals and have been featured on numerous TV clip shows around the world. His production company, Bankrukt, which produces comedic online content premiered a short film at the Tribeca Film Festival.
ABOUT THE LIBBEYS
Chris and Nick Libbey are a brother-filmmaking duo based in Brooklyn, NY. They produce, direct, shoot, and edit documentary films. They’ve worked on films found on Netflix, HBO, Lifetime, and the Sundance Channel. The Libbeys’ work has screened and won audience awards at film festivals around the world, been listed as a top web series on IndieWire, and received a Vimeo Staff Pick. Their production company, Sparky Stories, creates doc-style marketing videos for brands including Nestlé, L’Oréal, the Washington Nationals, Planned Parenthood, and the Ad Council.