State Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Marolda Properties for Tenant Harassment
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Some of the more controversial Lower East Side landlords are finally getting their due and proper. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman yesterday launched another lawsuit against a landlord, this time it’s the notorious Marolda Properties. They’re named amongst a “group of landlords.”
The story here is honestly no different than any other we’ve seen over the years. The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Marolda illegally engaged in tactics to intimidate and boot rent-regulated tenants in its downtown properties. You guessed it – active renovations without legally required permits, sham legal proceedings, coercing these tenants to sign away their housing rights, gas shutoffs, and evading the legal requirement to create tenant protection plans.
Here’s more from the official press release:
An investigation into defendants’ practices was originally initiated by the Tenant Protection Unit of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal after receiving complaints from various non-profit organizations that work with and in the tenants’ neighborhoods. A TPU subpoena examined the business practices of Marolda for tenant harassment and allegations of trying to force long-term Asian-American tenants out of their rent-regulated apartments.
The lawsuit alleges that defendants served tenants with notices (called “Golub” notices) that stated that the tenants did not actually live at their apartments and that an eviction proceeding would be filed if the tenants did not leave voluntarily at the end of their lease. Defendants frequently had little or no evidence to support their claims. In fact, database searches relied on by defendants showed the tenants did in fact live in the apartments they claimed to live in, or merely showed that the tenants had lived at other buildings many years earlier. The notices and lawsuits were also frequently based on conclusory claims that the landlords’ employees had not seen the tenants around their apartments for an extended period of time, when in fact many of the tenants frequently come and go from their apartments and sometimes even see the landlords’ employees on a regular basis. Defendants used these tactics to wear down their rent-regulated tenants, many of whom are elderly and do not speak English fluently, into leaving their apartments, sometimes in exchange for additional payments. Once the apartments are vacated, defendants may raise the rent under the rent regulation laws and thereby increase their profits.
The lawsuit further alleges that defendants have engaged in construction, renovations and repairs on their buildings without the legally required permits, and on other occasions have signed statements on their permit applications falsely claiming that the buildings are vacant. This allowed them to unlawfully evade the legal requirement to create a tenant protection plan specifically designed to safeguard the safety and health of their tenants during construction.
The lawsuit also alleges that defendants have at times locked tenants out of their apartments, engaged in unnecessary or unnecessarily burdensome and lengthy repairs and on other occasions failed to engage in necessary repairs, sometimes leaving tenants with substandard, unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. For instance, the lawsuit alleges that certain tenants living at 13-15 Essex Street in the Lower East Side are presently forced to pay for and use slow, ineffective and in light of the electrical wiring in the building, potentially dangerous store-bought hot plates to cook and heat their food, because their gas has been turned off by the landlord since February of this year. At the same time, these elderly tenants, one of whom has a disability, are forced to climb three flights of stairs to use an alternative restroom because their own toilet was removed in August and never replaced.
Could this finally be the tipping point that deters future speculators from doing the same? Probably not.
Read the full release here.