NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today reinstated more than Hundreds of tenants illegally withheld $422,000 in security deposits at Fairfield, one of Long Island’s largest homeowners. Real estate companies illegally withhold all or part of security deposits without providing tenants with a written list of deductions, inspect apartments in the absence of tenants, and do not allow tenants to make repairs before moving out to avoid penalties. Under today’s agreement, Fairfield must return the security deposits it illegally withheld to approximately 900 former tenants, including interest, and pay a $90,000 penalty.
“New Yorkers don’t have to worry about their landlord illegally withholding money that belongs to them,” said Attorney General James. “Fairfield is withholding thousands of dollars that belonged to hard-working people, and today, we will return that money to tenants who were defrauded. We will always go after landlords who violate the law and the rights of New Yorkers.”
Fairfield owns and operates 196 rental buildings with 13,620 rental units in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. After an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) after receiving complaints from tenants that Fairfield was withholding their security deposits, OAG found that the real estate firm routinely violated multiple housing and tenant protection laws.
New York law requires the landlord to provide an itemized statement of any deductions from the security deposit within 14 days, or the security deposit must be refunded in full. Fairfield withheld all security deposits or returned some of them, but did not provide tenants with a written itemized list of deductions. New York law also requires landlords to notify tenants in writing of their right to be present during apartment inspections, and must allow tenants the opportunity to clean or repair anything that will be deducted from their security deposit. Fairfield routinely inspects apartments without the tenants present and does not give tenants the opportunity to make repairs or clean the apartment before moving out.
Under today’s agreement, Fairfield will refund $422,598.21 to 899 former tenants who had some or all of their security deposits withheld. Fairfield will contact former tenants and send them a check. The company will also pay the state a $90,000 fine and will be required to provide OAG with a report on its compliance with the agreement. The company has agreed to comply with all laws regarding bond deposits and must send a certificate of compliance annually for three years or whenever requested by OAG. They will also train current employees on proper bond procedures and will provide annual training in the future.
“Residents in my district deserve fair, affordable and transparent housing choices, and Fairfield has abused their responsibility and trust,” said deputy speaker of parliament phil ramos“This victory over Fairfield shows to all who wish to do business here that they must follow the law and treat everyone with respect and integrity. I applaud and thank Attorney General Letitia James for her efforts to ensure all New Yorkers are protected And continue to work unwaveringly free from abuse.”
“I applaud Attorney General James for taking action to correct this injustice,” he said State Senator Monica R. Martinez. “It is unacceptable that Fairfield is arbitrarily withholding money from hard-working Suffolk residents. As chair of the Senate Local Government Committee, housing is a top priority and I am committed to working with the Attorney General to improve all of Suffolk County. quality of life for residents.”
“Today’s settlement reaffirms New York State’s commitment to tenants’ rights, holds predatory property owners accountable, and requires the company to provide additional compliance reporting going forward,” said State Senator Kevin Thomas. “I applaud Attorney-General James for successfully recovering funds illegally withheld from Fairfield Properties tenants and showing that we will not tolerate clear breaches of our housing laws.”
“Today is an amazing day for housing justice! I thank Attorney General James for the great work she is doing and her continued efforts to protect New Yorkers.” MP Tyler Darling. “Housing must have protections and accountability, and we have zero tolerance for landlords who engage in illegal and beneficial practices, especially to the detriment of tenants. This massive recovery of over $422,000 is a major win for the tenants of Fairfield Properties located in Long Island, and I hope We use this momentum to bring more justice and equity to New Yorkers across the state.”
“I am very pleased with the action Attorney General James has taken in this matter,” he said Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine. “These tenants, through no fault of their own, are being denied access to their money. With inflation raising the cost of almost everything, and many other day-to-day stressors to contend with, they now have at least one less financial burden to worry about. ”
“Over the years, my office and I have been involved in several cases involving fraudulent practices in which residential property owners withheld tenants’ security deposits indefinitely without providing proper itemized documentation as required by law,” said Councilor Kimberly Jean-Pierre “Sadly, legal action is often required to compel landlords to do the right thing for paying tenants, but I am very grateful to Attorney General Letitia James and her office for helping to ensure that those who break the law are held accountable and hard-working New Yorkers made whole and receiving the bond that was rightfully theirs.”
“Protecting the rights of homeowners and tenants has always been at the heart of what our state does,” said Assemblyman Michaelle C. Solages. “Long Islanders are fortunate to have an attorney general who is focused on addressing our district’s needs and has the best interests of working-class New Yorkers at heart.”
“When tenants provide a security deposit, they are doing it in good faith and the landlord will return the deposit at the end of the tenancy if the tenant meets all the criteria,” he said. Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg. “As elected officials, our primary role is to speak for our residents and ensure they can have confidence in our institutions. A major corporation is illegally withholding funds from residents who need them most, including low-income families and seniors, at best is disappointing. This agreement sends a message to other landlords and property owners that they will be held accountable and that this practice will not be tolerated. As always, thanks to Attorney General James and her team for standing up for our residents out.”
“Enforcement by the New York Attorney General is key to how tenants’ rights are actually respected in the marketplace,” he said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services. “Unfortunately, law enforcement has been forced to step in to ensure tenants are protected. As fair housing and a HUD-accredited housing advisory agency, we see laws passed by legislatures designed to ensure tenants are on an equal footing with landlords are often ignored. Tenants often find themselves without the resources to ensure their rights are respected. We thank the New York Attorney General for standing up to protect our fellow Long Islanders.”
“We applaud Attorney General James for fighting to protect the rights of renters, the majority of which in the region are young professionals, minorities and millennials who work tirelessly to afford quality housing on Long Island,” explain Dan Lloyd, founder and president of Minority Millennials. “We don’t have to worry about owners taking advantage of us and pocketing our revenue.”
The agreement is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to protect tenants and hold bad landlords accountable. In December, Attorney General James Queens property managers banned from turning away tenants. In November, she Block real estate firm Compass from denying housing to low-income New Yorkers. In October, Attorney General James and the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force Announced settlement with Greg Fournier and his real estate firm, Greenbrook Holdings, for harassing tenants and engaging in illegal practices while managing its Brooklyn-based buildings. In September, Attorney General James Received $4M from landlord after revealing illegal kickback scheme to deregulate condominiums.
The matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Rachael C. Anello of the Suffolk Regional Office, assisted by student intern Mishaal Bajwa, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Kimberly A. Kinirons. The Suffolk Regional Office, which falls within the Department of Regional Affairs, is headed by Deputy Attorney General Jill Faber and supervised by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.