It’s about to be much harder to get away with real estate crimes in the state of New York, thanks to a range of new task forces that are being charged with combatting tenant harassment, deceptive lending practices, deed theft, bank fraud, and other housing issues in the state.

According to the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the state is making these moves to “strengthen legal enforcement efforts” and to “enhance and streamline” the state’s resources to investigate real estate crimes.

“Affordable housing is a fundamental need that should be accessible to all New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said this week.

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous landlords and scofflaws in the housing industry take advantage of too many New Yorkers,” Schneiderman continued. “The new measures being taken today by my office will ensure that we are using every legal tool at our disposal to best protect tenants and homeowners against abuse.”

According to Schneiderman’s office, Special Counsel John Spagna will lead a new unit within the AG’s criminal division called the Real Estate Enforcement Unit.

Schneiderman’s office stated that this new unit will investigate complaints involving bank fraud, deceptive lending practices, deed theft, tenant harassment, and frauds committed upon city and state agencies by “unscrupulous real estate developers and other opportunists.”

“The Real Estate Enforcement Unit will be a tireless advocate in upholding the law on behalf of ordinary New Yorkers,” Spagna said. “By investigating fraud, deceptive lending practices, and tenant harassment, our office intends to curb this corrosive behavior and all who enable it.”  

Additionally, the AG’s Real Estate Finance Bureau will expand to address complaints of civil frauds like tenant harassment. Brent Meltzer, who is currently an assistant commissioner with New York City Housing and Preservation Development, will lead the restructured bureau. Meltzer is expected to begin working for the Attorney General’s Office on August 1.

“It is an honor to join the incredibly talented team in Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office and to contribute to their positive work fighting tenant harassment and other efforts on behalf of New Yorkers facing barriers to their housing needs,” Meltzer said. “I have spent my career fighting for fair and equitable housing and I share Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to this important work.”

In addition to the Real Estate Finance Bureau and Real Estate Enforcement Unit, Dina Levy, the state’s director of community impact and innovation will continue to work on several of the AG’s housing policy initiatives including spearheading the Homeowner Protection Program, facilitating joint efforts with the state’s land banks, and coordinating other tenant relief efforts.

“From the challenges presented by a lack of affordable housing, blighted and abandoned properties, and various forms of illegal abuse by landlords, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has assembled a team that is committed to ensuring justice for tenants and all communities,” Levy said. “I am proud to continue the important work our office is doing to stand up for vulnerable New Yorkers.”