AG Schneiderman Settles Civil Suit with Landlord Samy Mahfar for $225K
The ongoing civil lawsuit against notorious landlord Samy Mahfar brought by tenants in four of his Lower East Side buildings has reached conclusion. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman settled with the area landlord yesterday for a pittance. He got off easy with a $225K settlement.
The three-year period between 2013 and 2016 was a busy one for Samy Mahfar, albeit at the expense of his tenants. They endured suffering and hardship, while the landlord can likely chalk this up to a cost of doing business.
As we reported over the years, Mahfar and his SMA Equities company employed several methods to harass rent-regulated tenants at 102 Norfolk Street, 113 Stanton Street, 210 Rivington Street (which he sold), and 22 Spring Street. His tactics were textbook, including engaging in construction work (aka “construction as harassment”) that led to dangerous amounts of lead in the air (2,900 times the legal limit at 102 Norfolk), failing to provide essential services such as heat and hot water, and hiring a “relocator” company that coerced residents into buyouts by unfounded threats and intimidation. Several of those affected were Chinese or Spanish-speaking families who had lived in the buildings for many years.
“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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “But landlords who harass and force their tenants to endure unsafe conditions should also face criminal charges – and I call on the legislature to act on my new bill, which would criminalize this type of activity.”
Below is an excerpt from the press release:
The settlement agreement requires that 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, comply with all laws and regulations applicable to any residential buildings owned or controlled by the companies or by Sami Mahfar or Sina Mahfar, follow additional procedures designed to protect tenants from harm caused by any future renovations, and hire an independent management company approved by the Attorney General’s office to manage the buildings which they still own.
A number of tenants have already 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 the housing code violations in the buildings have now been cleared.