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A.G. Schneiderman Secures Agreement Shuttering Company That Engaged In Unlawful Tenant Harassment

Michel Pimienta, Owner Of Misidor LLC, Illegally Worked As A Tenant Relocator; Harassed Tenants

Schneiderman: Tenants Must Not Be Hounded Or Pressured To Give Up Their Homes

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

“My office is committed to ensuring that no one — no matter how rich or well connected — stands above the law and that everyone plays by the same rules. We will continue to take action against those who use illegal tactics in attempting to force rent-regulated tenants out of their homes so they can raise rents,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This agreement will help ensure that lawful tenants are not harassed or pressured into giving up their homes by an unlicensed and unscrupulous tenant relocator.”

Tenant relocators are increasingly common in New York, and particularly in gentrifying areas in New York City where some landlords are seeking to reduce rent-regulated housing and increase rents. 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 Pimienta and his company, which operated out of 174 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, last year after receiving complaints from tenants and housing advocacy groups alleging that he was harassing rent-regulated tenants. The complaints came from multiple tenants residing in three buildings: two on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and one in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood.

The investigation found that Misidor and Pimienta engaged in unlicensed tenant relocation in more than 60 buildings in New York City. The investigation revealed that Misidor and Pimienta never obtained a real estate broker’s license, despite engaging in the tenant relocation business for more than a decade.  

The investigation found that Misidor 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 Misidor;
  • 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 with Misidor bans the company from engaging in tenant relocation business for a year and requires Pimienta and his company to obtain a real estate broker’s license and approval from the Attorney General’s Office prior to resuming operations.  Misidor and Pimienta must also adopt new policies, implement new business practices, maintain detailed records relating to tenant relocation work, provide training to brokers and salespersons, and  report to the Attorney General’s Office for a three-year period if they go back into business.  Finally, the agreement requires Misidor, which had no employees other than Pimienta, to pay to the State of New York $40,000 in penalties, fees, and costs.

Brandon Kielbasa, lead organizer at the Cooper Square Committee, which organized tenants in multiple buildings targeted by Misidor, said, “Extreme turnover does not naturally occur in rent-regulated buildings.  Profit-hungry landlords need somebody on the ground turning tenants out to make it happen.  Misidor has stood out as one of the industry’s most aggressive operators.  We are very grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for this investigation and the precedent it sets.”

Harvey Epstein, director of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center,said, “This agreement demonstrates the New York State Attorney General’s continuing commitment to protecting tenants’ rights.  Tenant relocators and landlords must respect the basic human right of all New Yorkers to live peacefully in their homes.”

Mary Ellen Bizzarri, a special education teacher and former tenant of a rent-regulated apartment on the Lower East Side, said, “Amid heavy and dangerous construction that was causing significant stress to me and other tenants, Pimienta showed up on my doorstep, made it difficult to acquire a lease renewal, and tried to scare me into giving up my rent-stabilized apartment.  I have been a tenant in New York City for many years, and I am delighted that Attorney General Schneiderman is seeking to end harassment by illegal tenant relocators.” 

This agreement is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing initiative to combat harassment and discrimination faced by tenants in affordable housing units across New York State. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau has secured other agreements addressing tenant harassment in New York City. Click here for more information.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mayur Saxena and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lemle Amsterdam of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Attorney General’s Social Justice Division.  The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg. 

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting the rights of tenants throughout New York State.  To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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