Relief for NYC tenants in buildings turned into illegal hotels

In a statement addressing his recent landmark money settlement with the NYC mayoral Office of Special Enforcement, a Manhattan owner of multiple apartment buildings in Midtown termed the affair "a regrettable process."

City officials undoubtedly described it differently in private communications and pointed to it as a major win against unlawful building management and bad-faith landlord conduct.

 Earlier this month, Salim Assa, who has rental agreements with tenants in four buildings he owns and manages, accepted the terms of what has been described as "the largest settlement of its kind" in city history. Assa agreed to a $1.2 million penalty. Additionally, he will turn over management control of all his units to the city. An independent manager will oversee his buildings' operation for the next three years.

Tenants were subjected for months to a steady influx of short-time visitors via an illegal partnership Assa had with two brothers. Those individuals publicly listed apartment units as hotel rooms on Airbnb. The money taken in and divided among the three parties was collected pursuant to nightly rental charges rather than via monthly lease payments.

Complaints were duly lodged. Assa was reportedly cited by city authorities more than 100 times before things escalated legally in a material way.

Assas agreed to comply with settlement terms despite his claimed ignorance of any unlawful activity occurring in his buildings. He has steadfastly claimed that he had no knowledge of illegal rentals and, in fact, has blamed some of his tenants for the legal consequences he now faces.

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