Attorney General Penalizes Illegal Tenant Relocator

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced an agreement that requires an unlicensed tenant relocator to cease all operations. The agreement was secured following an investigation that revealed the tenant relocating company and its owner harassed rent-stabilized tenants living in three New York City buildings. The investigation also revealed that the owner operated illegally in more than 60 rent-regulated buildings, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but also in the Bronx.

To operate legally, tenant relocators must have a real estate broker’s license. They are prohibited from harassing or in any way pressuring tenants into giving up their rent-regulated homes. The Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the owner and his company last year after receiving complaints from tenants and housing advocacy groups alleging that he was harassing rent-regulated tenants.

The investigation found that he engaged in unlicensed tenant relocation in more than 60 buildings in New York City. The investigation revealed that he never obtained a real estate broker’s license, despite engaging in the tenant relocation business for more than a decade. The investigation also found that the company had engaged in a pattern of tenant harassment, including: falsely accusing rent-regulated tenants of lease violations; pressuring tenants in buildings undergoing construction to accept buyout offers while continually representing that their living conditions were unsafe; making repeated and unwanted buyout offers to tenants who had clearly indicated they did not want to communicate with the company; following tenants to work and interrogating their colleagues without the tenants’ consent; and shouting at tenants and threatening them with eviction.

In addition to requiring immediate termination of all operations and unlawful tenant harassment, Attorney General Schneiderman’s agreement bans the company from engaging in tenant relocation business for a year and requires the company to obtain a real estate broker’s license and approval from the Attorney General’s Office prior to resuming operations. The agreement also requires the company to pay to the State of New York $40,000 in penalties, fees, and costs.