Questions about lead paint poisoning? Read about a Buffalo, NY landlord who violated lead protection laws ordered to pay $5.1 million here.
New York Attorney General Letitia James won her $5.1 million lawsuit against Angel Elliott Dalfin, a Buffalo-area landlord whose flagrant and egregious violations of lead safety laws resulted in more than two dozen reported cases of childhood lead poisoning. Erie County Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto ordered Dalfin to pay $5.1 million in restitution and penalties, which will fund ongoing childhood lead poisoning prevention programs administered by the City of Buffalo and Erie County, as well as efforts to eliminate lead hazards in homes.
Dalfin and his rental housing operation owned and managed more than 150 single- and two-family homes in predominantly low-income communities of color. Seven properties had multiple cases of childhood lead poisoning reported.
In 2020, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against Dalfin and the rental housing operations he controlled, alleging that Dalfin persistently violated city, county, state, and federal laws by failing to address lead paint-related hazards in the rental properties he owned. The allegations included repeated housing code violations, such as chipping, peeling, and deteriorating paint and other conditions conducive to lead poisoning, and allowing paint to deteriorate to the point of being a lead hazard instead of taking preventive actions.
In April 2022, Justice Panepinto found Dalfin and his rental housing operation liable for the factual allegations made in the suit, including engaging in 126 instances of deceptive acts or practices, committing repeated fraud and illegality, and creating and contributing to a public nuisance. Dalfin and his affiliates were also permanently banned from renting or managing residential properties in New York State.
On November 7, 2022, Justice Panepinto awarded $5,094,018.45 in total penalties and restitution against Mr. Dalfin and his group. The award included:
- $630,000 total penalties for violations of state law requiring landlords to provide full and accurate information to tenants about known risk of lead exposure to children and known instances of lead paint and lead paint hazards. Dalfin and his affiliates were accused of having ignored their obligations and lied to tenants about lead risks in their properties.
- $3,101,900 in restitution for ongoing violations of the Erie County Sanitary Code involving conditions conducive to lead poisoning, such as chipping, peeling, and deteriorating paint. One property, where a child resided had 16 different lead hazard violations that were left unremedied by Dalfin for over 620 days and another property where seven violations were ignored for almost 880 days.
- $1,263,478.45 as disgorgement of a portion of rents received by Dalfin and his affiliates on properties with city or county lead paint-related code violations. Between 2013 and 2020, at least 63 of the Dalfin properties were cited for conditions conducive to lead poisoning.
Dalfin has either sold or abandoned all properties he once owned or managed in Buffalo. To help ensure that any remaining lead hazards in these properties are identified and corrected, the Attorney General has contacted all tenants of the properties to inform them of their rights to lead-safe housing, as well as all new owners to inform them of their lead-related obligations. In addition, the Attorney General is working closely with Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc., a non-profit community redevelopment agency, to rehabilitate several former Dalfin houses and provide lead-safe housing to the former tenants in those houses and help improve the neighborhoods Dalfin poisoned for years.
The poisoning of children from lead paint in aging rental housing is an ongoing national public health crisis, but is of particular concern in New York State, especially in Buffalo and the surrounding area. According to a 2018 study, the city of Buffalo suffers from some of the highest rates of childhood lead exposure in the nation, citing “poor housing conditions in old homes with lead paint.” In the Buffalo region, children who live in communities of color are 12 times more likely than children who live in predominately white neighborhoods to be diagnosed with an elevated blood lead level. Elevated blood lead levels are also more prevalent in Buffalo’s low-income neighborhoods than high-income neighborhoods.