BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In a new lawsuit, the Raiszadeh Group is being accused of failing to keep many of the apartments they own in Buffalo safe.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, Erie County and the City of Buffalo are suing Farhad Raiszadeh, his wife Shohre Zahedi and their companies.
According to the New York State Attorney General’s office, the Raiszadeh Group owns 75 properties, of which more than half have been cited for lead paint hazard violations. Specifically, 47 of the properties have been cited.
“Tens of thousands of rental properties in Buffalo constructed before 1978 contain lead paint which, if not properly maintained and managed, can cause lead poisoning,” the lawsuit says.
The Raiszadeh Group has owned a number of properties since 2008. The AG’s office says these properties have primarily been “rented to low-income families of color in Buffalo” and at least 16 children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning while living in these properties, the AG’s office says.
The management of these properties has been problematic, according to the AG’s lawsuit.
Raiszadeh and Zahedi, who have a permanent residence in California, have been managing the properties “without the required property management license from the city and rented out the units without the required real estate broker’s licenses from the state,” the AG’s office says.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks to go back years, with the intent to penalize the Raiszadeh Group up to $5,000 for each false or misleading lead disclosure they’ve given to tenants. The lawsuit also seeks “full disgorgement of all ill-gotten profits, such as rent payments received, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the AG’s office says.
“We cannot allow landlords’ neglect to steal our children’s futures,” AG James said. “We will hold the Raiszadeh Group accountable for their actions and will continue fighting to ensure all children are able to grow up in safe and healthy homes.”
In addition to financial penalties, the Attorney General’s office is looking to make sure the Raiszadeh Group’s properties become safe for tenants. James is seeking an order to require them to do the following:
- Regularly inspect rental units for lead hazards and remedy all areas of concern in a timely manner;
- Follow lead-safe work practices as set forth by the federal EPA and Erie County when conducting lead paint renovations;
- Provide tenants with accurate lead disclosures when required bylaw; and
- Hire an independent monitor to supervise and report to OAG on the defendants’ compliance.
“Slumlords use sophisticated business structures to evade city codes and laws that would force property owners to provide safe and suitable housing,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.
Citing a 2018 report in the National Library of Medicine, the lawsuit discusses Buffalo’s high rates of childhood lead exposure compared to other cities in the United States.
“Moreover, although it accounts for only 33 percent of Erie County’s population, Buffalo accounts for 92 percent of its childhood elevated blood lead levels,” the lawsuit says, citing U.S. Census data from 2011 to 2020.
MORE | Read the lawsuit here.
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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.