ALJ Finds Landlord Harassed Tenants

HPD brought charges of tenant harassment against an Aimco-owned building in the Upper West Side. Image credit: HPD

HPD brought charges of tenant harassment against an Aimco-owned building in the Upper West Side. Image credit: HPD

Testimony showed landlord Aimco routinely ignored maintenance requests and issued baseless eviction threats.  The NYC Department of Housing Preservation Development charged Aimco with a dozen different forms of harassment against their tenants.  Aimco is the owner of the Tempo, a Class A hotel at 238-244 West 73rd Street, with 150 rent-stabilized single-room occupancy (SRO) units and 75 SRO units rented at market-rate.  Aimco’s representative, John Bezzant, denied the charges and petitioned for a certificate of no harassment.  On January 5, 2015 Administrative Law Judge Kevin F. Casey found sufficient evidence of harassment and recommended denial of Bezzant’s petition.

ALJ Casey found Aimco failed to make requested repairs in a timely manner, shown by HPD investigator photographs of cracked windows and window frames, mold, leaking ceilings, peeling paint, and rotting wood, and supplemented by tenant testimony.  The ALJ also found Aimco repeatedly baselessly demanded rent and legal fees from its tenants after the rent had already been timely paid, as well as made unfounded threats of eviction.  Bezzant argued there was no intentional harassment because the legal demands were made by Aimco’s attorney, caused by a delay in processing the rent checks at Aimco’s out-of-state offices.  The ALJ rejected this argument, finding Aimco repeatedly failed to follow up with its attorney after payments were received, and the repeat nature of the demands were intended to harass the SRO occupants.

ALJ Casey found the remaining harassment claims were insufficiently supported by evidence or did not constitute intentional harassment, and recommended a denial of the petition for a certificate of no harassment.  As result of the denial, Aimco is barred from reapplying for a certificate of no harassment for three years from the date of denial.  Without the certificate, Aimco can not obtain an alteration or demolition permit from the Department of Buildings, which prevents them from converting the remaining rent-stabilized units into market-rate units.

In a statement given to CityLand, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been said “SROs have long provided permanent housing and stability to some of our city’s most vulnerable citizens, and they are an important part our low-income housing stock. The Certification of No Harassment (CONH) process was enacted in an effort to stop the harassment of SRO tenants and to preserve SRO housing for low income citizens. It has played an important role in preserving SRO units, discouraging tenant harassment, and pushing owners to properly maintain their buildings.”

Dep’t of Housing Preservation & Development v. Bezzant, OATH Index No. 1529/14 (Jan. 5, 2015).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014).

One thought on “ALJ Finds Landlord Harassed Tenants

  1. Illegal hotels, air b&b’s all over the city. Yet NYC & Company sends out the same press release that tourism is great. How do they determine the # of visitors when there are so many illegal hotels? Seems there numbers are not accurate and all there paying dues members are chain hotels. Why even bother paying for dues with this organizations if you are a legit B&B? Hotel Association of NY does nothing about this and there should be a disclaimer on their website about illegal hotels. Same for NYC & Company since they are not looking out for the safety of the tourist/traveler. Also, it seems that the tourism committee/state picked by Cuomo are ignoring these issues.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.