Cuomo settles with landlords

Nick Rees Feb. 11, 2010, 5:00pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced a settlement with a New York City landlord that results in $1 million in compensation for tenants.

Vantage Properties, as a result of the settlement, has agreed to end serving tenants with baseless legal notices and will no longer commence frivolous Housing Court eviction proceedings, Cuomo said.

The $1 million will compensate tenants who suffered harassment from Vantage and will fund not-for-profit organizations that provide free legal and educational services to tenants. The agreement also requires Vantage to reform its policies to ensure compliance with the Rent Stabilization Code and other laws.

"Landlords who harass tenants harm all New York City residents by displacing long-time tenants from stable neighborhoods and exacerbating the affordable housing shortage," Cuomo said.

"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."

Vantage is also required to implement new policies related to processing complaints, initiating legal proceedings, collecting rent and establishing succession rights to ensure protections of tenants in the future. Residents of Vantage properties will receive notices informing them of the policy changes, which Cuomo says will set a new best practices standard in the industry.

Vantages policy changes will include revision to its procedures that will include stricter investigatory measures to be completed prior to serving legal notices or commencing eviction proceedings.

Vantage will also hire an independent monitor, who will conduct a review of all tenant harassment complaints to ensure than all new claims are addressed properly and tenants are compensated for any harm. The company will also hire an independent auditor who will oversee compliance with terms of the agreement and anti-harassment protection laws.

Additional changes to Vantage's policies and procedures will provide translation services to limited English proficiency tenants regarding questions on landlord-tenant issues.

Reports will also be submitted to Cuomo's office for a three-year period to demonstrate compliance with the new agreements.

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

Vantage was issued a letter by Cuomo last week informing them of his intent to sue over harassment of tenants.

An investigation into the landlords revealed attempts to force long-term, rent-regulated tenants out of their homes to allow significant rent increases on new tenants and to increase profits.

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