January 16, 2014
Governor Cuomo’s office touted the major settlement agreement between the state’s Tenant Protection Unit and the landlord and management company saying that it will help make communities “more just and affordable.”
The unprecedented agreement includes monitoring of the landlord’s practices for up to three years, the establishment of a fund to compensate mistreated tenants, the return of tenants previously ousted, and a requirement that all future communication between landlord and tenants be conducted in both English and Spanish.
“When my administration created the TPU almost two years ago, we made it clear that we would hold landlords who harass and bully tenants accountable,” Governor Cuomo said. “All New Yorkers deserve to be treated fairly, no matter where they come from. This settlement serves as a reminder to landlords that there will be real consequences if try to intimidate their tenants based on their background, citizenship or legal status.”
The management company was accused of unfairly refusing to renew leases, adding on inappropriate fees, and demanding Social Security numbers or other income records to test citizenship of existing tenants.
Other allegations include personal harassment and threats of eviction over immigration status or lack of proof of adequate income. Tenants also claim they were pressured to leave their rent-regulated homes and waived their rights through English-only settlement documents.
The landlord has agreed to set up a $100,000 fund to be administered by the TPU-approved monitor, in order to compensate tenants who may have been subject to wrongful conduct.
The company must also re-write its procedures to avoid improper requests for Social Security numbers and tenants’ immigration status, and protect all current and future tenants under fair housing and anti-discrimination laws.
Tenants who may have been improperly removed or forced to vacate their homes must be allowed to move back to a similar apartment.
All future communication and documents directed to tenants must be in both English and Spanish.
The landlord also will hire and pay a monitor for the next three years to oversee compliance with the agreement.
Since the Tenant Protection Unit was formed, approximately 500 owners and 1,100 apartments have been audited, and over 2,700 buildings with 28,000 apartments have been re-registered and added back to the rent-stabilization rolls. The TPU also says it has returned more than $200,000 to tenants who were unknowingly overcharged.
The Tenant Protection Unit is calling this the “absolutely first settlement of its kind” for the agency.
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