New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
NEW YORK CITY—New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reports his office has reached a settlement agreement surrounding allegations of harassment by a Lower East Side landlord to force rent-stabilized tenants to move out of its properties.
The $225,000 settlement agreement is between the Attorney General and companies controlled by Sassan “Sami” Mahfar and Sina Mahfar, which own or owned four residential buildings: 22 Spring St., 102 Norfolk St. 113 Stanton St., and 210 Rivington St. in Manhattan.
According to a press announcement, the Attorney General states the Mahfar entities between 2013 and 2016 harassed rent-stabilized tenants at the properties by engaging in construction work that put dangerous amounts of lead into the air, failing to provide essential services such as heat and hot water, and hiring a “relocator” company that used illegal tactics in seeking buyouts from tenants. A number of the affected tenants were Chinese or Spanish-speaking families who had lived in the buildings for many years, the attorney general’s office states.
“Landlords must not use harassment or subject tenants to unsafe construction to drive rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes. Unfortunately, across the city, unscrupulous landlords look to take advantage of New York’s real estate market at the expense of their rent-regulated tenants—and we won’t hesitate to fight back using all tools at our disposal,” says Attorney General Schneiderman.
Last month, the Attorney General proposed new legislation that would make it easier to criminally prosecute landlords who engage in tenant harassment, including the type of conduct covered in the settlement with Mahfar’s companies. Current state law demands prosecutors reach an inexplicably high bar in order to criminally charge landlords with harassment of rent-regulated tenants, he notes.
The settlement agreement requires the companies pay $175,000 to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development for lead remediation and/or enforcement and $50,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state.
The settlement money to HPD will be used to purchase 15 new X-Ray Florescence (XRF) Equipment that analyzes the composition of paint in New York City apartments to identify whether or not lead-based paint is present and determine if it is a threat.
The Attorney General’s office reports that a number of tenants at the properties have secured substantial rent abatements and other concessions, including the waiver of major capital investment-based rent increases, through their own lawsuits in housing court. The vast majority of previously cited housing code violations in the buildings have been corrected.