Domain sues tenants who withheld rent when gas went out

Greenpoint residents claim they lost heat for months.

For four months, tenants at a luxury Greenpoint building quit paying the rent after going more than three months without gas service. They racked up over $500,000 in arrears.

Now landlord Domain Companies wants at least some of that money.

Brooklyn 1133 Manhattan Ave In a lawsuit filed last week, Domain asked a judge to force the 87 residents to pay the arrears, then determine how much free rent the tenants are entitled to. The firm, which says gas service has been restored, is also seeking class-action status against the building’s tenant association.

The problems at 1133 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, started in September when, the suit says, Domain learned a subcontractor botched the plumbing installation as the building went up in 2014. The mistake eventually affected the delivery of natural gas.

After that discovery, National Grid cut off gas service and Domain started work that lasted three months and cost more than $1 million, the landlord claims.

Domain alleges it had 15 plumbers working “24/7” to restore gas to the building. Still, tenants dealt with reduced services for months. Gas outages can last a frighteningly long time, a 2020 investigation by The Real Deal found.

There was no heat between Sept. 26 and Dec. 2. And for the majority of the outage — 45 out of the 67 days — outdoor temperatures fell below 55 degrees, the threshold at which the city mandates thermostats be set at 68 degrees or more.

The hot water was out for just four days in September. But the absence of cooking gas dragged on. Tenants couldn’t use their ovens or stoves for 103 days, including during the holidays.

The landlord claims it bridged the gap by providing space heaters, hot plates and catered dinners. It estimates those meals cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Domain said it also extended rent abatement and concession offers, but tenants rejected them.

Instead, the 87 residents in the approximately 210-unit building withheld about $500,000 worth of rent. The tenants association now wants Domain to forgive those arrears and then some.

The suit reads that some tenants have demanded “more than 100 percent of the applicable rent during the natural gas outage.”

In response, Domain is asking that a judge decide how much rent it is legally obligated to forgive.

Domain’s counsel said it remains optimistic that the matter will soon be resolved. An attorney for the tenants declined to comment.

The building at 1133 Manhattan Ave has been in the news before: It had the most housing lottery applications in the city when it debuted, as nearly 60,000 poured in for just 105 affordable apartments. Rents in the new, amenity-rich building — which includes a fitness center, dog run and gourmet grocer — were to start at $647.

Source: The Real Deal