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Buyouts as a Method of Tenant Harassment

As New York City rent prices continue to increase, the demand for housing has made rent-controlled apartments an even more precious commodity. Indeed, many landlords seeking to earn a sizeable profit in the current sellers’/renter’s market have engaged in “buying out” their tenants’ lease agreements.

In some situations, a buyout can effect a sizeable and worthwhile payout to both the landlord and the tenant. However, there has become an increasing trend of meager buyout offers to lower-income tenants. These paltry offers, if successful, have the potential to displace lower income individuals in the face of New York’s ever increasing rental prices. Furthermore, recent reports have suggested that these buyout offers have been used more as instruments of illegal tenant harassment than simple mutually-beneficial business propositions. Continue reading “Buyouts as a Method of Tenant Harassment”

Discrimination Against Tenants in Brooklyn

Tenants in Brooklyn, New York are claiming their landlord is discriminating against them and trying to force them out of their rent-controlled apartment. African American tenants of Homewood Gardens Estates in the Prospect Lefferts Garden neighborhood have filed a federal lawsuit against the complex and owner Yeshaya Wasserman. They allege the landlord failed to make repairs and seldom cashed rent checks in a scheme to evict them from their rent-controlled apartments. Residents claim white and Asian tenants don’t face the same treatment

“He fails routinely to cash rent checks and then turns around and sues plaintiffs for allegedly not paying their rent,” attorney for the residents, Pavita Krishnaswamy said. One woman who’s lived at the apartment complex for over 14 years said she’s gone without hot water for over a week and the landlord barely ever responded to her countless repair requests over the years. Continue reading “Discrimination Against Tenants in Brooklyn”

Tanya Hobson-Williams Urges New York City Council to Impose Rent Freeze for More Senior Citizen Tenants

FLORAL PARK, NY — Attorney Tanya Hobson-Williams of Hobson-Williams, P.C. is asking the New York City Council to pass a bill that would raise the income threshold for senior citizen tenants living in rent-regulated apartments. She says that, under this bill, more seniors would be protected from rent hikes and be able to stay where they are currently living.

Continue reading “Tanya Hobson-Williams Urges New York City Council to Impose Rent Freeze for More Senior Citizen Tenants”

New York City Tenant Sues Landlord for Negligence

Almost everyone has heard of a story about someone walking into their apartment and realizing they’ve been robbed. But have you ever heard of a story where they stole the bed, the curtains and everything in between? Well that’s what Upper East Side resident, Nilay Shroff, is claiming he experienced in October 2013, when he found his apartment stripped of almost everything in an apparent “mistaken robbery.”

Mr. Shroff, a 27-year-old software maker alleged that late one night in October 2013, he entered his Yorkville apartment to find the shock of a life time; almost everything was gone. Once police arrived, Shroff and the officers became suspicious of the incident since the apartment burglary did not fit the details of a usual occurrence in multiple ways. Continue reading “New York City Tenant Sues Landlord for Negligence”

New Bill Targets Landlord Mistreatment of Senior Citizens

It is estimated that over 45 percent of New York’s senior citizens have been in their homes for decades. Most of these seniors are housed in rent-regulated apartments and recently, it has come to light that many landlords have engaged in unfair and cruel practices in an attempt to get rid of long-term tenants and make more money. The claims of such mistreatment of senior citizens began to multiply in 2013 and as a result a bill has been introduced in the New York City Council that will increase penalties of such behavior and hopefully send a message to the landlords of New York City.

The bill, which was introduced early in 2014, sets to double the maximum civil penalty to $10,000 for property owners who abuse seniors. The legislation would also place such property owners on a black list maintained by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Continue reading “New Bill Targets Landlord Mistreatment of Senior Citizens”

New York City Settles Allegations of False Medicaid Claims

The case of Ohlmeyer ex rel. United States of America v. City of New York, a whistleblower action brought by the federal government against the city of New York has been settled. The 2012 complaint accused the city’s education department of submitting false claims to Medicaid for counseling services to special education students, and as of January 2014, New York City has agreed to pay $1.37 million in an official settlement.

The complaint, charged that New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) knowingly billed Medicaid for psychological counseling services for individual special education students who did not receive two monthly counseling session, the minimum number required for payment, between 2001 to 2004.

Continue reading “New York City Settles Allegations of False Medicaid Claims”

Medicaid Reportedly Loses Over 1.5 Million Dollars from Russian Diplomat Scheme

Dozens of current and former Russian Diplomats and their spouses have been accused of committing Medicaid fraud in a criminal complaint filed in December 2013. The diplomats, which include employees of Russia’s consulate, employees of its mission to the U.N., and trade representatives, were among 49 individuals charged in a complaint unsealed in federal court in Manhattan. Though no arrests were made and only 11 of the diplomats and their spouses remained in the United States, the complaint said Medicaid, a health care program for the poor and disabled, lost about $1.5 million in the scheme since 2004.

The complaint alleges that the defendants submitted fraudulent applications for medical benefits for pregnancies, child births and care for young children. Federal prosecutors said the diplomats qualified for Medicaid benefits by underreporting their income, often by tens of thousands of dollars, yet were enjoying countless luxury amenities while in the United States.

In court papers, FBI agent Jeremy Robertson described an 18-month investigation, saying investigators had discovered a pattern of falsified applications. He said 58 of the 63 births attributed to Russian diplomats and their spouses in New York City between 2004 and 2013 were funded through Medicaid, which is largely federally funded but also includes money from state and local governments.

Robertson wrote that the diplomats and their spouses generally underreported household income to an amount below the applicable Medicaid eligibility level, and some of them lied about the citizenship status of their children to obtain continuing health coverage for them.

Meanwhile, the diplomats and their spouses spent tens of thousands of dollars on vacations, expensive jewelry and designer clothing at luxury retail stores including Bloomingdale’s, Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, Swarovski and others, the court papers said. The complaint said they also spent tens of thousands of dollars on electronic merchandise at Apple Inc., bought concert tickets, robotic cleaning devices and chartered helicopters.

Charges in the criminal complaint included conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements relating to health care matters.

“Being a diplomat does not give you the right to commit health care fraud,” said George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, he added, “The defendants selfishly took advantage of a health care system designed to help the unfortunate and should be punished.”

Common penalties for Medicaid fraud include monetary fines, disqualification, garnishment of wages, and even criminal prosecutions. If you or a loved one have been charged with Medicaid fraud, the consequences you may face can be severe. As a result, you should immediately contact an experienced Medicaid attorney to receive the representation you deserve.

 

New Medicaid Fair Hearing Procedures

New York City has implemented several changes to the Medicaid Fair Hearing procedures. One of those changes includes restricting the ability to obtain an adjournment of the hearing by making the request online or by telephone. When contacting the N.Y.S. Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance (OTDA) office in Albany to request an adjournment, the agents who answer the phone will question the basis for the adjournment. They use a subjective standard of “good cause” to determine whether or not to grant the adjournment. In fact, I had a client who requested an adjournment of a fair hearing because the hearing was scheduled on Rosh Hashanah and she wanted to use that day to prepare for family who would be visiting for the Holiday. OTDA denied my request for an adjournment because Rosh Hashanah was not observed until sundown on the scheduled date.

I argued vehemently that religious observance was “good cause” and that OTDA cannot deny an adjournment request based upon religious observance. However, the request for an adjournment was denied. The agency’s rigid construction of “good cause” emanates from a lawsuit filed against the OTDA for delays in providing fair hearings to individuals who require immediate assistance. A court order is in place requiring OTDA to schedule a fair hearing within 90 days of the request.

The need to ensure efficiency must be balanced with the need to ensure that those with legitimate needs to postpone hearings are not unduely prejudiced by OTDA’s need to comply with the court’s order. It must be noted that pursuant to the Fishman lawsuit, that if an individual defaults (fails to appear) on a fair hearing, OTDA is required to notifiy the individual that their case will be defaulted if they fail to notify the agency that they wish to proceed with the hearing. Although my request for an adjournment was denied, I was able to obtain another hearing date on behalf of my client knowing about the Fishman litigation.