UPDATED, June 22, 2:08 p.m.: Another multifamily landlord is facing potential jail time as authorities ramp up their investigations and prosecutions of tenant-harassment cases.
Crown Heights landlord Daniel Melamed was found guilty Tuesday on three counts of illegally evicting tenants from the 14-unit multifamily building he owns at 1578 Union Street, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced. The landlord was acquitted of the top charge – a felony relating to allegedly filing a false work plan with the city Department of Buildings – and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
The illegal conviction misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to one year in jail. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun will make the decision on the final sentence at a hearing scheduled for September.
Melamed’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
The jury verdict comes two weeks after landlord Steven Croman pleaded guilty in a Manhattan criminal court room to larceny and fraud charges. Schneiderman’s office brought that case against the landlord following an investigation into alleged tenant harassment. Croman agreed to serve a year in jail and pay $5 million in fines on the fraud and larceny charges. Authorities plan to appoint a receiver for each of Croman’s companies and also revoke his brokerage license. A civil case addressing the tenant-harassment claims is still ongoing.
Melamed bought the Union Street property in 2012 for $1.6 million, property records show. Almost immediately after, he started cutting off the heat and performing illegal construction work in order to drive out rent-stabilized tenants, according to the AG’s office.
Schneiderman’s office arrested the landlord in 2015 on charges he illegally evicted tenants and endangered their safety, including a 6-year-old child.
“Daniel Melamed intentionally endangered rent-stabilized tenants in order to push them out – and line his own pockets,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We won’t hesitate to bring the full force of the law against anyone who harasses, intimidates, and jeopardizes the health and safety of tenants.”
Schneiderman and the city’s district attorneys are increasingly bringing harassment cases against landlords as tenants and their advocates claim they face a new wave of illegal tactics from owners looking to decontrol regulated units.
At the same time, authorities are pushing for tougher laws. Both the Schneiderman and the City Council have proposed legislation that would strengthen protections for tenants.
Many of the recent cases came as the result of the state Tenant Protection Unit Gov. Andrew Cuomo created in 2012. Last week, a state court shot down a legal challenge the landlord group Rent Stabilization Association brought against the TPU and several other code amendments.