The New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo Announces $1 Million Settlement With New York City Landlord "vantage Properties" To Stop Tenant Harassment

NEW YORK, NY (February 11, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a settlement with Vantage Properties (“Vantage”), a major New York City landlord, that will stop the company from serving tenants with baseless legal notices and will stop it from commencing frivolous Housing Court eviction proceedings. Under the settlement, Vantage will also pay a total of $1 million to compensate tenants who have suffered harassment and to fund not-for-profit organizations that provide free legal and educational services to tenants. 

To ensure proper protections to tenants in the future, Vantage is also required to implement new policies related to processing complaints, initiating legal proceedings, collecting rent, and establishing succession rights.  All residents will receive a notice informing them of the policy changes.  These new reforms will set a new best practices standard in the industry.

Last week, the Attorney General issued a letter to Vantage indicating that he was prepared to sue the company over their harassment of tenants.  The Attorney General’s investigation into Vantage had revealed that the landlord was attempting to force long-term, rent-regulated tenants to move out of their homes in order to impose significant rent increases on new tenants and increase profits. 

“Landlords who harass tenants harm all New York City residents by displacing long-time tenants from stable neighborhoods and exacerbating the affordable housing shortage,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “In these tough economic times, the preservation of affordable housing is of the utmost importance.  Today’s agreement with Vantage not only preserves the rent-regulated apartments owned by them, but also sends a strong message that my office will continue to protect tenants and bring unscrupulous landlords to justice.”

The agreement requires Vantage to pay $750,000 in damages to tenants who can demonstrate that they unjustly vacated their apartments or were subject to frivolous Housing Court proceedings.  Vantage must pay an additional $250,000 to not-for-profit organizations that provide free legal and educational services to tenants.  Further, the agreement requires Vantage to reform its policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Rent Stabilization Code and other laws.

Specifically, Vantage must:

  • Revise its policies and procedures to include stricter investigatory measures that must be completed prior to serving legal notices or commencing eviction proceedings
  • Hire an independent monitor to conduct a review of all tenant harassment complaints to ensure that all new claims are being addressed properly and tenants are compensated for any harm
  • Provide translation services to limited English proficiency tenants regarding questions on landlord-tenant issues
  • Hire an independent auditor to oversee compliance with the terms of the agreement and anti-harassment tenant protection laws
  • Submit reports to the Attorney General’s Office for a period of three years demonstrating compliance with the agreement  

Attorney General Cuomo noted that, “These reforms will put in place, for the first time, new rules of the road governing the landlord-tenant relationship in New York.  If there are other landlords who are not living up to these standards, they should.”

Senator Eric Schneiderman said, “I commend Attorney General Cuomo for bringing all parties together to achieve this important settlement for tenants of my district.”

Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat said, “Many tenants who are dealing with housing issues may not be citizens and may not fully know their rights as New York City residents.  Attorney General Cuomo’s agreement with Vantage is structured to help solve this problem.  It provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund not-for-profits that will help residents with legal services.  That way, tenants will be able to best protect themselves against any future violations of their housing rights.  I applaud the Attorney General for reaching such a comprehensive agreement.”

Assemblymember Jose Peralta said, “This agreement will help restore confidence in New Yorkers who may be facing their own housing issues.  Attorney General Cuomo’s agreement sends a strong message to all landlords in our state and serves as a model for future settlements over tenant issues.”

Assemblymember Keith L.T. Wright said, “The Attorney General’s agreement shows all New Yorkers that when they have an issue regarding tenant harassment, they can count on their representatives in government to balance the scales.  I look forward to my continued partnership with Attorney General Cuomo in protecting the rights of all New Yorkers.”

Assemblymember Herman D. Farrell, Jr. said, “The agreement arranged by Attorney General Cuomo is a victory for all residents in New York City.  It shows that law enforcement in this state will stand up for residents who are facing abuses and will use their power to protect tenants’ rights.”

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said, “I am very pleased that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo acted so quickly and thoroughly on behalf of the constituents we referred to him who had numerous complaints about Vantage Properties.  I commend the Attorney General for his tremendous advocacy in representing the interest of these hard working, long time residents.”

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, “All residents of our city deserve to live with security and peace of mind.  Unfortunately, the troubling findings of the Attorney General’s investigation showed that harassment of tenants by their landlords happens and we must do all we can to stop it.  That’s why the City Council passed the Tenant Protection Act, the anti-harassment law that the Attorney General used to protect the Vantage tenants.  It’s great to see what an effective tool our law has become.  I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his swift and effective use of the law on behalf of the working-class tenants in Vantage apartments.  I look forward to continuing to work with him to keep our city safe and strong.”

New York City Council Member Robert Jackson said, “I congratulate the Attorney General for his successful advocacy on behalf of Vantage tenants.  I was a sponsor of NYC’s landlord anti-harassment legislation and happy to see it enforced with such effectiveness. I look forward to seeing my constituents in Vantage buildings benefit from this settlement.”

Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of the Association of Neighborhood Housing Development, said, “This agreement is simply groundbreaking.  Not only does this agreement provide meaningful monetary relief to tenants who were harassed, but it requires the implementation of clear and sound policies and procedures that will protect the rights of tenants.  The Attorney General’s agreement with Vantage puts Wall Street investors and landlords that do their bidding on notice that tenant harassment is against the law and violators will be sought out and brought to justice.”

Valerie Orridge, President of the Delano Village (Savoy Park) Tenant Association, said, “Vantage was attempting to push out vulnerable, working-class, and elderly people from the homes they lived in for many, many years.  Tenants would come to me distraught from stress and fear after receiving baseless legal papers from Vantage.  I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for taking up the fight on behalf of my neighbors and other tenants like us and preventing further abuse due to Vantage’s actions.”

Barbara Lowry, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, said, “Attorney General Cuomo recognized that not-for-profit organizations that provide aid to tenants are on the front lines in the battle to preserve affordable housing.  And in these tough economic times, legal service organizations are more important than ever to tenants who need free legal assistance.  This agreement provides, through a fund, needed resources to not-for-profit organizations, thereby increasing the number of tenants that we are able to assist on a daily basis.  And for that alone, Attorney General Cuomo should be applauded.”

The Attorney General’s agreement with Vantage is available at www.ag.ny.gov/media_center/2010/feb/Vantage_AOD.pdf

This investigation is part of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to enforce laws that promote equal access to housing across New York State.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Brooke Davis under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Alphonso B. David and Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman.

 

 

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