April 5, 2016

Governor Cuomo Highlights Success of Tenant Protection Unit

Governor Cuomo Highlights Success of Tenant Protection Unit

50,000 NYC Apartments Returned to Rent Regulation; $2.25 Million in Rent Overcharges Ordered Repaid

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the Tenant Protection Unit has successfully returned 50,000 improperly deregulated apartments in New York City to rent regulation and restored more than $2.25 million in overcharged rent to tenants during the last four years.

"Four years ago, we created the TPU to root out landlord fraud and abuse, fight tenant harassment and protect the rights of two million New Yorkers occupying rental apartments,” Governor Cuomo said. “Since then, the TPU has successfully fought for tenants’ rights, returning thousands of units to rent regulation, holding bad actors accountable and forcing restitution for those who have been overcharged.”

Beginning in 2012, using HCR’s Office of Rent Administration (ORA) registration data, the TPU began tracking down thousands of rental apartments in New York City that had disappeared from ORA’s roll of rent regulated apartments. By notifying owners who had failed to register their units since 2009, the TPU has recaptured 50,000 apartments, restoring tenants’ legal rights and allowing the agency to monitor the rents for those apartments going forward.

The TPU also used internal data to expose more than $2.25 million in rent overcharges that tenants were unaware of, where landlords were overcharging tenants for apartment improvements that were either never completed or could not be substantiated.

These initiatives, combined with comprehensive legal actions against landlords found to be violating the law, have helped stem rising housing costs in various changing New York City neighborhoods, enforcing state rent regulation laws and helping long-term and working-class tenants stay in their homes.

HCR Commissioner James S. Rubin said, “The Governor’s Tenant Protection Unit is doing important work on behalf of many of New York’s more than two million rent regulated tenants by helping to guarantee their rights. TPU actively investigates and runs down harassment cases and works with advocates, the City, the Brooklyn District Attorney and the Attorney General to enforce compliance with rent and tax laws. This, combined with the strong new fair housing push will help increase housing choice for our diverse New York population. While we understand that most landlords are law abiding and value their tenants, we must make sure that tenants are treated fairly and not victimized by those landlords who intend to skirt the law for profit.”

The TPU’s efforts dovetail with the Governor’s recently announced Fair Housing Enforcement Program to confront discrimination against people seeking to buy or rent housing in the neighborhoods of their choice. In addition to exposing discriminatory practices through the work of teams of “testers” with diverse racial, gender, and economic backgrounds, who also represent parents, and people with disabilities, the fair housing enforcement efforts will also include investigations of real estate agents, owners and landlords – all of whom are prohibited from discriminating in the rental or sale of housing in New York State.

To amplify these efforts, the state will promulgate new, broader and stronger regulations that clarify that it is an unlawful practice under the State Human Rights Law to discriminate against individuals because of their relationship or association with members of a protected class. These regulations will ensure that all New Yorkers know that they have the right to rent or buy residential or commercial space, or patronize such places as stores, restaurants or theaters, regardless of the race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other protected characteristic of their family members, associates, or clients.

The TPU has been active in the fair housing realm, protecting the rights of rent regulated tenants in neighborhoods that are under development pressure. To date, the TPU has announced comprehensive, corporate compliance settlements with landlords who were systematically harassing rent-regulated tenants in gentrifying neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn where the majority of the tenants in the buildings are Hispanic and Caribbean-American; served broad-based subpoenas on landlords in Lower Manhattan, who were allegedly attempting to harass Asian-American and Hispanic from their homes; and launched a major initiative that uncovered the illegal removal of central heating systems in over two dozen rent regulated buildings occupied by tenants who are predominately Hispanic.

Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of the Association of Neighborhood Housing and Development, said, “ANHD has been at the forefront of supporting policies that strengthen and preserve affordable housing. The TPU plays an important role by bringing apartments back into regulation, which provides essential protections for tenants, many of whom are living from paycheck to paycheck. I commend Governor Cuomo and the TPU for taking action and ensuring that the rent laws are obeyed and that the State’s supply of rent-regulated housing is not only intact, but growing.”

Edward Josephson, Director of Litigation, South Brooklyn Legal Services, said, “Because of the TPU’s actions, owners are reminded that their ability to illegally deregulate apartments through fraudulent and inflated Individual Apartment Improvement costs has been severely diminished. Maintaining a robust TPU and continuing to strengthen tenants’ rights must be a priority for all of New York. I thank the Governor and the TPU for again aggressively deterring fraud, being on the forefront of keeping people in their homes, particularly in neighborhoods that are experiencing intense market-rate development pressure, and giving money back to the people.”

Tenants who live in rent stabilized apartments and feel they are being harassed should call ORA and TPU at (718) 739-6400.

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