Sunday, June 21, 2015

Joint NY AG/NYC Mayor Task Force Pinches Brooklyn Landlord On Charges Of Unlawfully Driving Rent-Regulated Tenants Out Of 14-Unit Building In Rapidly-Gentrifying Area; Accused Of Heat Shut-Offs, Creating Fire Hazards Thru Demolition, Construction; Toxicity Level From Lead-Based Paint Dust Allegedly Up To 88 Times Permissible Levels; Only Three Families Remain

In Brooklyn, New York, The Associated Press/Crain's New York Business (via The Real Deal (NYC)) reports:
  • New York authorities brought criminal charges [] against a Brooklyn landlord they say drove tenants out of rent-regulated apartments by doing construction and demolition at his building and shutting off the heat.

    The indictment charges Daniel Melamed with three counts of unlawfully evicting tenants from rent-regulated apartments, endangering the welfare of a child and filing a false document. Authorities also accused the engineer he hired to oversee construction on the 14-unit building, Pirooz Soltanizadeh, of filing a false document.[...] Calls to their attorneys weren't immediately returned.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio planned to discuss the Crown Heights landlord's arrest at a news conference at a Brooklyn street corner. Their offices said the arrest was the first to come from their joint task force launched in February to inspect properties that have been the subject of harassment complaints.(1)

    Meanwhile, the state law for the city's rent regulations expired Tuesday, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders trying to negotiate an extension and possible revisions.

    Authorities allege the landlord illegally shut off heat to rent regulated tenants, even when outdoor temperatures fell below freezing, exposed tenants to lead dust that were up to 88 times higher than permissible levels, and destroyed interior walls and common spaces creating fire hazards.(2)

    They also allege Mr. Melamed filed false documents with the city Department of Buildings, stating the building was vacant when all units were occupied, to avoid submitting a plan to ensure tenant safety during construction. He bought the building in 2012 and owns and manages six others in the city, according to the attorney general's office.
Source: Brooklyn landlord is charged with pushing tenants out of rent-regulated apartments (Authorities say the Crown Heights landlord allowed construction on his building and illegally turned off the heat when temperatures were below freezing).

See also:

The New York Times: Brooklyn Landlord Is Arrested in Tenant Harassment Inquiry:
  • [“N]ew York’s real estate boom is generating jobs,” [New York Attorney General Eric] Schneiderman said. “It is creating revenue. But it also has put thousands of tenants at risk to unscrupulous landlords.” He continued, “Bad landlords have an incredible incentive under the current laws to get rent-regulated tenants out of their buildings by any means necessary, and harassment is reaching new lows.”
  • The busts resulted from a special task force formed in February to weed out dirty landlords who try to force out their rent-regulated tenants so they can jack up prices once the units are vacant.

    When Melamed bought the building in December 2012, all 14 units were occupied. Only three families remain now. “Initially, he offered people buyouts, but then in early 2013, he got much rougher and decided to start cutting off heat and hot water,” Schneiderman said.
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(1) See Bowery Boogie: ‘Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force’ Collars First Slumlord for Endangering Rent Regulated Tenants.

(2) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes (as well as child care facilities and pre-schools) built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

For an example where the EPA recently clipped one landlord with a $54,000 fine for failing to do so, see Stamford, Conn. Property Management Firm to Pay Fine and Take Measures to Protect Children from Lead-Based Paint in EPA Settlement.

Go here for links to examples of landlords getting hammered by the EPA for tripping over the federal lead paint rules, and here to file a complaint reporting violations with EPA.

Go here for EPA Lead Paint Renovation Compliance Guide for landlords, property managers, contractors, and maintenance personnel working in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978.

Editor's Note: It's not unheard of for a landlord to get sentenced with jail time for violating EPA's lead paint rules. See Baltimore City Landlord Sentenced to Prison for Lead Paint Violations in Rental Properties He Owns and Manages (Previously Cited by the State for Numerous Lead Paint Violations and Documented Children with Elevated Lead Blood Levels Living in His Properties).

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