The new Real Estate Enforcement Unit will be in charge of investigating tenant harassment and related complaints. On July 7, 2016, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced his new plan to create a new legal enforcement team to combat tenant harassment and related housing issues affecting New York residents. These new initiatives come in the wake of several crackdowns on housing related incidents.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s plan includes the creation of the Real Estate Enforcement Unit, which would be led by Special Counsel John Spagna in the Attorney General Office’s Criminal Division. The Real Estate Enforcement Unit will be responsible for investigating complaints alleging deceptive lending practices, deed theft, tenant harassment, bank fraud, and other housing related fraudulent activity.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s new plan will also restructure the Real Estate Finance Bureau, which will be expanded and become responsible for addressing civil frauds, such as allegations of tenant harassment. As of August 1, 2016, the Real Estate Finance Bureau will be led by Bureau Chief Brent Meltzer, who currently serves as the Assistant Commissioner at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
In addition to Attorney General Schneiderman’s new initiatives, Director of Community Impact and Innovation Dina Levy has been and will continue to push forward the Attorney General Office’s existing housing policy initiatives, such as the Homeowner Protection Program, the program through which the Attorney General’s Office secured more than $4 billion to relieve struggling New York homeowners from the financial pressures created by the crash of the mortgage bubble.
The July 7th announcement arrived on the heels of several successful crackdowns on housing related offenses. For example, in the early months of 2016, Attorney General Schneiderman criminally accused and brought a civil suit against Steven Croman, who allegedly owed more than $1 million for construction code and building code violations, allegedly acquired $45 million of fraudulent loans, and allegedly systematically engaged in tenant harassment.
“Affordable housing is a fundamental need that should be accessible to all New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous landlords and scofflaws in the housing industry take advantage of too many New Yorkers. The new measures being taken today by my office will ensure that we are using every legal tool at our disposal to best protect tenants and homeowners against abuse.”
Attorney General Announcement: Real Estate Enforcement Unit (July 7, 2016).
By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2015)