State’s pro-tenant task force draws landlord ire

October 21, 2013 02:31PM

Landlords are accusing the Tenant Protections Unit, a state agency tasked with monitoring landlords accused of pressuring tenants out of rent-regulated units, of overstepping its mandate.

The TPU’s work over the last year has mostly consisted of conducting audits of landlords who neglect to file proper registration forms with the city. But a move asking landlords to surrender documentation on what they spent to improve vacant apartments ruffled feathers, as in the past such paperwork was only required when a tenant formally registered an objection.

Industry insiders complained that the TPU steps on the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s toes. It is the DHCR, they said, that is supposed to deal with disputes between landlords and tenants, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“A landlord can never win,” Adam Leitman Bailey, a lawyer who represents building owners and tenants, told the Journal. “They have to spend huge amounts of money on legal fees, and even if they win they can’t brag about it, because it will still hurt the landlord’s reputation.”

The TPU is actually funded through the DHCR and has “broad powers,” a TPU spokesman told the Journal. But actual enforcement of the TPU’s findings lie with the DHCR, which can hold hearings and handle formal appeals.

Since its inception, the TPU has successfully restored 25,000 rent-controlled units to the city’s affordable housing stock. The agency also made waves earlier this month when it served Flatbush landlord Yeshaya Wasserman with a subpoena demanding documents from eight properties he owns, after he was accused of harrassing tenants. [WSJ]Julie Strickland