Monday, August 24, 2015

NYC Authorities Get Aggressive w/ Rogue Landlords, Pinch Operator Of So-Called "Three-Quarter Homes" Accused Of Illegally Booting Tenants

In Brooklyn, New York, The New York Times reports (via The Real Deal (NYC)):
  • Prosecutors have filed criminal charges against a notorious landlord of cramped flophouses in Brooklyn, taking what housing advocates described as unusually forceful action against an operator of so-called three-quarter homes.

    The landlord, Yury Baumblit, was the subject of an investigation in The New York Times on three-quarter housing — seen as somewhere between regulated halfway houses and actual homes — in May.(1)

    The two counts filed against Mr. Baumblit last week that allege he illegally evicted tenants are misdemeanors, punishable by as much as a year in jail. But housing advocates could not recall the last time, if ever, prosecutors have moved ahead with charges against an operator of three-quarter houses accused of unlawfully evicting tenants.

    We’re hopeful this is the beginning of a sea change in prosecuting illegal evictions against three-quarter-house landlords,” said Tanya Kessler, a lawyer with MFY Legal Services(2) who represents three-quarter-house tenants in Housing Court.

    After learning of the charges on Thursday morning, Mr. Baumblit collapsed outside the courtroom, grabbing his chest.

    Three-quarter houses, also known as “sober” or “transitional” homes, have multiplied in the past decade, catering to poor people in treatment for substance and alcohol abuse, homeless people desperate to avoid shelters, and mentally ill people with nowhere else to go. For a bunk bed, operators usually charge residents either the monthly $215 housing allowance for people on public assistance, or about $300 a month for people on disability.

    Tenants are crammed into bedrooms, as many as eight to a room. The ramshackle homes are often infested with bedbugs and rodents. Bunk beds block exits. Because they are not regulated, they are often centers of the very kind of drug activity they purport to avoid.

    After The Times published its investigation on May 30, the city formed an emergency task force, inspected 64 of the homes and moved out more than 200 tenants in overcrowded homes, mainly to hotels. The task force is now working on helping those tenants find permanent housing.
For more, see Landlord of ‘Three-Quarter’ Homes Faces Criminal Charges.

(1) Some describe three-quarter houses as unregulated homes that rent shared rooms to homeless people and others, such as those leaving hospital mental health and substance abuse units, and others reentering the community after serving time in jails or prisons, and recruit them by falsely promising support services and assistance with finding permanent housing.

(2)  MFY Legal Services is a non-profit law firm providing free legal assistance to low-income residents of New York City on a wide range of civil legal issues, prioritizing services to vulnerable and under-served populations.

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