February has brought some very good news to tenants, especially those in North Brooklyn. On February 2nd Brooklyn Housing Court Judge Marina Cora Mundy granted the tenants of 300 Nassau Avenue their petition, excluding Landlord Joel Israel excluding Landlord Joel from the property and appointing an administrator to repair and manage their building. This action will eventually lift the vacate order so the tenants can return home.
The tenants of 300 Nassau Avenue were forced out of their homes in December of 2013 due to the deliberate destruction of their boiler, hot water heater, water line, gas meters, and electric meters. The tenants maintained the damage was caused by Joel Israel or his agents for the purpose of excluding them from their rent-stabilized apartments.
“Landlords who deliberately provoke vacate orders through destruction or neglect of their buildings are a growing problem in Brooklyn. The tenants at 300 Nassau got organized, fought back, and have now successfully removed the landlord from the building. We are excited to work with Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the 7A Administrator to ensure that repairs are completed as quickly as possible,” said Adam Meyers, a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, who represented the tenants in the proceeding.
A little over two weeks after this decision, Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman, and Mayor de Blasio announced the launch of the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force. The need for this task force is evidenced in the fact that tenant harassment complaints in Housing Court have nearly doubled since 2011. This task force will investigate and bring enforcement actions – including criminal charges – against landlords who harass tenants.
The increased multitude of complaints cite that landlords are using a variety of tactics, including disruptive and dangerous renovation and construction projects, to force tenants into vacating rent-regulated apartments.
“Most landlords are law-abiding and responsible, but as the real-estate market in New York City heats up we have seen an influx of bad actors looking to turn a fast buck,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “A thriving real estate market is no excuse for tenant harassment. Make no mistake about this: My office will pursue landlords who knowingly or intentionally threaten the health and safety of their tenants to the full extent of the law, including bringing criminal charges against them. If you treat your law-abiding tenants like criminals, we will not hesitate to make you one.”
In 2012 Gov. Cuomo created the New York State’s Division of Homes & Community Renewal Tenant Protection Unit (TPU), which has since recaptured more than 37,000 unlawfully deregulated apartments and returned them to rent regulation.
“Every New Yorker deserves a safe, affordable, and decent place to live,” Governor Cuomo said. “Working with our partners in the State and City, and building upon the success of the Tenant Protection Unit, we will further crack down on unscrupulous and unlawful practices and ensure that tenants’ rights remain protected.”
Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force is executing unannounced and joint inspections of buildings in New York City where landlords and management companies are suspected of using construction as a means to harass tenants. Following multiple joint on-site property inspections, the task force agencies have already substantiated a number of tenant complaints and the task force has several on-going investigations. The member agencies will pursue evidence of illegal acts, and lodge enforcement actions.
Incidents of harassment include:
- Landlords operating without proper permits;
- Construction projects operating in violation of stop work orders;
- Landlords who openly ignore requirements for tenant protection plans in order to contain the spread of lead and/or asbestos which may be exposed during renovation;
- Landlords removing essential systems, such as boilers and venting systems, in order make life unbearable for existing residents.
“We won’t sit idly by while bad actors push out the families that have built our neighborhoods. With the State and City combining efforts, we can prevent displacement and help tenants stay in their homes. Combined with the free legal representation we’re providing to thousands of tenants, this new task force will add muscle to our fight against tenant harassment and our efforts to protect rent-stabilized apartments,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.