COVID, Evictions, Slumlords and the PUSH for Justice

In midst of worsening COVID-19 public health crisis, local familyis illegally evicted by California-based landlord.Family and community leaders speak out; call fortenant protections and a Buffalo Tenant Bill of Rights

Community  leaders and housing advocates gathered and spoke out in solidarity with Cheryl Williams and her family outside Ms. Williams’ former residence at 10 Humason Ave. Tuesday to expose the unjust and illegal treatment she experienced at the hands of California-based landlord Farhad Raiszadeh of Premier Heritage Homes, LLC and Prime Heritage Homes, LLC.

 In November, Ms. Williams and her family were illegally and immorally evicted and harassed by Mr. Raiszadeh following a fire at the property. In clear violation of  New York State law, the landlord locked the Williams family out of the property on two occasions and removed their belongings from their home and placed them into garage. Despite having paid rent through the end of November and not having access to the property, the landlord demanded $1,000 from Ms. Williams to turn the water back on, demanded rental payment, and then proceeded to rent her family’s home to new tenants while increasing the rent. Ms. Williams notified local officials more than once and no action was taken against the landlord.        

“The landlord has robbed me blind and he has kicked me out of my home. He doesn’t care about people. He only cares about profits. But he picked the wrong woman because I’m gonna keep going until I secure justice for myself and the other people that he’s done this to,” said Cheryl Williams. 

According to City of Buffalo records, Mr. Raiszadeh, through his real estate holding companies Premier Heritage Homes, LLC and Prime Heritage Homes, LLC, owns approximately 70 rental properties in Buffalo with a majority on New York State’s Section 8 housing list. According to prior tenants who wish to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, Mr. Raiszadeh has allegedly subjected other renters to unjust, deceptive, and potentially illicit treatment, such as allowing tenants without their knowledge to move into housing that lacked heat and hot water equipment or water service, and charging higher rent than what was agreed to by tenants in the original lease.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened and temporary tenant protections, like the statewide eviction moratorium, are eased or go unenforced by government officials in communities, housing advocates are increasingly concerned that the kind of self-help eviction actions taken by Mr. Raiszadeh will become more common occurrences in the months ahead. 

“We are in the midst of a housing disaster like we have never seen before, but our elected officials have done almost nothing to help our neighbors, and our communities are suffering. Conditions are only going to get worse in the coming winter months as the effects from the pandemic deepen, and without rent and mortgage cancellation, thousands will lose their homes,” said local housing rights attorney Adam Bojak.  

“..Stopping evictions would stabilize society for everyone. To stop evictions, we must stop the entire ‘eviction machine’,” said PUSH Buffalo volunteer Minnie Kim. 

“PUSH Buffalo is working on two projects that will fight the eviction machine in Buffalo: the Buffalo Tenant Bill of Rights, which will strengthen renters’ rights and prevent unfair evictions, and the online Slumlord Wall of Shame, which will list landlords who have shown themselves through their actions to be slumlords, and also the law firms, attorneys, and property managers who enable slumlords to operate.”      

Angel Rosado, interim Housing Justice Organizer at PUSH Buffalo, added, “By allowing people to profit off of whether or not someone has a place to live, we are failing ourselves and our neighbors in our communities. Without Just Cause Eviction and proper consequences for breaking the law, we will always see illegal and immoral actions by landlords. We need a Buffalo, a New York, and a national Home’s Guarantee and our city officials have a chance and a responsibility to start us on that path by enacting a Buffalo Tenant Bill of Rights.”  

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