A landlord who owns a 23-unit apartment in Corona sent letters to tenants demanding they prove they are in the United States legally and threatened to evict them if they didn’t.
The Daily News first reported the story on June 18 after a resident at 95-36 42nd Ave. complained to state Senator Jose Peralta about the letter, which told residents they must provide a photo ID, social security card, green card or passport and proof of employment to management.
“P.S., If you fail to comply, your lease will not be renewed, we may have to terminate your lease and may have to evict you from the apartment,” the letter provided to the Daily News read.
The landlord, Jaideep Reddy, said the letter was “wrong” and was written by the building’s electrician Eddie Peralta. Tenants were not allowing him into their apartments to make repairs, which caused frustration, Reddy said.
When contacted by the Daily News, Eddie Peralta argued that “what Trump is doing is right.”
“People need to become legal!” he said. “Look what we do for all these illegal aliens, and what do they do? They commit homicides. They go raping people.”
Tenants expressed fear and some said Reddy was trying to kick them out after buying the property three years ago. Kenya Messina, who has lived in the apartment for two years, told the Daily News that tenants feel “intimidated” by the letter.
“This is completely illegal,” she said. “People are feeling very sad. Some people are intimidated.”
One tenant, Miledys Fermin, said she agreed with the letter because she feared gang members lived in the building.
“I’m worried. … They’re inside drinking, doing drugs, marijuana,” Fermin told the Daily News. “Now with new management, I’m hopeful.”
Senator Peralta filed a complaint on Monday with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a statewide, multi-agency investigation into whether other landlords were making the same requests of their tenants.
Both Schneiderman and the city sent Reddy a cease-and-desist letter to notify him that his actions violate city and state laws.
“It’s not only outrageous to exploit fear among immigrant communities and discriminate based on status — it’s illegal,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “When a Corona landlord threatened to evict tenants who weren’t citizens, we made clear he was breaking the law and ordered him to cease and desist. Bad landlords should be on notice: we won’t hesitate to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, no matter their immigration status.”
On June 21, elected officials and city agencies like the NYC Commission on Human Rights gathered at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights for a “Day of Action.” The press conference sought to educate tenants about their rights.
“We must not allow Washington’s hateful and derogatory speech towards immigrants win the day here in New York City,” said Bitta Mostofi, assistant commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “No landlord in the city should be inquiring into their tenants’ immigration status and we are appalled by these fear-mongering and devastating tactics.”
The Commission has doubled the number of investigations into discrimination based on immigration status and national origin over the last two years, filing 331 cases in 2015 and 2016. It is currently investigating 291 cases of discrimination based on immigration status and national origin, with 89 cases specifically in housing.
Landlords can face up to $250,000 in fines for “willful and malicious violations of the law,” according to the Human Rights Commission.
“There’s been a rising, troubling trend of unscrupulous landlords intimidating and exploiting the vulnerabilities of their tenants,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “The best way to prevent such abuse is to arm all tenants with knowledge of their legal rights, especially to protect themselves from illicit discrimination based on immigration status.”
To learn more about the city’s housing protections, visit www.nyc.gov/fairhousing.