New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Brooklyn-based real estate law firm Balsamo, and its partners Robert Rosenblatt and Edward Hall, for allegedly taking advantage of tenants through deceptive rent collection, evictions without cause, and more.
James announced on Wednesday that she had filed the lawsuit against Balsamo, Rosenblatt & Hall, P.C., A. Balsamo & Rosenblatt, P.C. ( known as Balsamo), and Rosenblatt and Hall, accusing them of not conducting any meaningful reviews of non-payment eviction cases before filing litigation. She said their actions had resulted in the distribution of deceptive rent collection letters, unnecessary legal actions against tenants and improper evictions without cause.
“In failing to fulfill their basic responsibility, Balsamo caused untold trauma, stress, and financial hardship to New York tenants throughout the city,” James said.
“With each housing case, there is far too much at stake for lawyers to cut corners. We are talking about people’s ability to have a roof over their head — a right that Balsamo unjustly denied New Yorkers.”
She added that the lawsuit was the first step in “righting the wrongs done by unscrupulous landlords and their lawyers and reversing the negative impacts of their negligence on our communities.”
In addition to penalties, James wants to stop Balsamo from all deceitful rent collection practices, suspend all unjustified cases against tenants and return all the profits it has received from the unjustified cases.
The lawsuit comes after an investigation by James’ office which found it was Balsamo’s practice not to review crucial documents in its cases — such as leases or deeds — before issuing rent collection notices or commencing litigation, forcing New York tenants to defend “frivolous lawsuits” and leading to some tenants being improperly evicted, the AG said.
The investigation found several cases of eviction throughout its investigation, including the case of Arturo Solis, who was improperly evicted twice due to Balsamo’s actions, according to James.
Solis was first evicted in July 2017 after Balsamo failed to thoroughly review any documents to support the legal conclusions in the petition, and as a result, named the wrong landlord in the court papers.
While Solis’ first eviction was reversed, Balsamo improperly evicted Solis again in a new lawsuit in March 2018 after they failed to review and consider relevant documents that would have showed that the landlord had no right to collect rent or evict Solis, James said.
James alleges that Balsamo’s housing court practice violates New York Executive Law, the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, and the New York General Business Law.