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Landlords to Pay $5 Million for Dodging Rent Laws

State, city officials target buildings receiving lucrative property tax breaks in return for limiting rents.

New York City and state officials announced settlements Thursday placing 1,823 apartments under rent stabilization, making a small dent in the city’s problem of scofflaw landlords who collect big property tax breaks but fail to cap rents as required by law.

In a Nov. 5 story, ProPublica estimated that there are about 50,000 apartments in buildings where New York City landlords had collected these tax breaks but hadn’t registered them for rent stabilization. Together, the landlords were receiving annual property tax breaks of more than $100 million.

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — partnering with city and state housing agencies — had announced action in August against owners of 194 buildings.

Failure to comply with rent stabilization leaves tenants exposed to overcharges, harassment or illegal eviction. Landlords are required to register with the state and report rents paid; tenants have a right to their apartment’s rent history so they can see if rents are within city-approved limits.

Schneiderman said that about 1,400 of the 2,400 apartments in the 194 buildings had been brought under rent stabilization.

Eighteen separate settlements with landlords brought another 408 apartments under protection, he said. Under the terms, the landlords will collectively pay $5 million to a low-income housing fund.

Schneiderman also took the step of releasing the names and addresses of 52 of the 194 landlords who he said refused to comply with the law. Previously, his office had declined to identify landlords.

The list showed that most buildings are located in Brooklyn. It included at least one building owned by The Rabsky Group, a prominent Brooklyn developer ProPublica wrote about last month.

In a joint statement released on Thursday, the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which oversees rent-stabilization laws, said it will now begin taking legal action against “recalcitrant landlords” who have not complied.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which administers the tax break programs, known as 421-a and J51, warned that it “can commence proceedings” to revoke the tax benefits from landlords. The statement did not say whether the agency would proceed to do so.

Such revocations are rare. HPD has only taken away the tax benefit twice in the last three years.

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