Tenants: Cuomo's Tenant Protection Unit a Flop; Harassment Continues

Landlord Harassment, Neglect Continue Despite State Monitor, Tenants Say
by David Howard King, Jun 17, 2015
Published in Gotham Gazzette

Tenants celebrated when Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) appointed a monitor to oversee 51 apartment buildings owned by the notorious Castellan Real Estate Partners, but for the past two years those same tenants say the conditions in their buildings have deteriorated while the TPU has failed to take action.

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Woman's Partner Wins Bid to Succeed in Apartment (with decision)

Woman's Partner Wins Bid to Succeed in Apartment
Andrew Denney
New York Law Journal
February 13, 2015

An appellate court ruled Tuesday that a deceased woman's partner and longtime roommate should be entitled to succeed her in a rent-controlled apartment, saying that their "modest" intermingling of finances does not negate their "family-like" relationship.

Writing in WSC Riverside Drive Owners LLC v. Williams, 571144/12, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed a 2013 opinion by the Appellate Term, First Department, that effectively granted a landlord's holdover petition denying Oliver Williams' succession into a rent-controlled apartment leased by Judy Singer.

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NYC's Low-Income Renters Are Freezing--Daily Beast

NYC's Low-Income Renters Are Freezing
January 26, 2015
The Daily Beast
by Kevin Zawacki

The city’s crooked landlords frequently leave tenants without heat, often causing illness and unplanned bills.

When the heat fails in Keisha Jacobs’ Brooklyn apartment during the winter months, discomfort is just one of her troubles. The frigid temperatures create a spiral of aggravation and unplanned bills that can mar the entire season.

Her two-year-old daughter might fall ill from the cold, Jacobs told The Daily Beast—and ailing kids aren’t welcome at daycare. “They don’t want the other children to get sick,” Jacobs said. “And if she’s not at daycare, that means I have to have another arrangement for child care. And that ends up costing.” READ MORE for the rest of the story.

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Small Business Jobs Survival Act

We are asking our readers to sign this petition (and pass it on to your contacts) asking elected officials to get off their collective asses and pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. Information on the bill - now in front of City Council - is below, at the URL below and at http://savenycjobs.org/

Activists who deal with development and displacement issues every day know that the loss of small business is a direct result of over-development and gentrification. READ MORE for the rest of the article.

Bad habit: Nuns booting immigrant tenants in Hell's Kitchen

Bad habit: Nuns booting immigrant tenants in Hell's Kitchen
Dispute broke out when the sisters raised the rent by $150
December 29, 2014
The Real Deal, by Adam Pincus

More than two dozen immigrant women who have resided for years in a five-story single-room occupancy building in Hell’s Kitchen have just over a year to find a new home, an attorney for the residents said. And the landlord who’s giving them the boot? The Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

The Connecticut order of nuns, which owns the St. Joseph Immigrant Home at 425 West 44th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues, is locked in a battle with a group of the building’s residents who balked at a $150 rent increase imposed earlier this year by the sisters. To date, the nuns have filed 27 lawsuits in Housing Court to remove the women. READ MORE for the rest of the article.

Landlords Claim Court Bias in Favor of Tenants

Landlords Claim Court Bias in Favor of Tenants
String of Rulings Have Gone Against Property Owners
by Josh Barbanel, Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2014

A stream of decisions unfavorable to landlords in the New York Court of Appeals has many property owners saying the state’s highest court is tipping the scale in favor of tenants. Since Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman took office in 2009, the landlords contend, the court has shifted from an emphasis on closely reading the wording of state law to a broader focus on public policy and how it affects vulnerable tenants.

“You have a Court of Appeals very fond of taking landlord-tenant cases and ruling in favor of tenants even if that means overturning past precedents and logical thinking,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a lawyer representing both landlords and tenants. Tenant lawyers said the decisions were firmly grounded in the law. READ MORE for the rest of the article.

Tenants Rip Program Tying Rent Hikes to Landlord Investments

Tenants Rip Program Tying Rent Hikes to Landlord Investments
By Jillian Jonas | December 19, 2014
from City Limits

Bronx resident Soledad Franco has lived in her apartment since 1972, moving in when she was ten. A 2011 fire precipitated by an unlicensed electrician caused her to lose all of her belongings and become temporarily homeless. There have been at least four fires in the building since 2007—despite that, the owner won approval from state regulators on four occasions for extra increases to her rent.

Loraine Dellamore's building was allowed to deteriorate so badly and for so long that an organizer with the Flatbush Tenants Coalition (FTC) said the conditions were the worst she had ever seen, and included "sewage dripping on people's heads." As one of the tenant leaders, Dellamore spent two years fighting just to get basic repairs—and then contested the owner's bid for a rent increase, which she says was based on dubious costs.

Ed Maloney's Manhattan building converted to a condominium* in 2000. Soon after, the owner embarked on construction in some of the common areas. Much of it was done incorrectly or shoddily, which was well-documented by the tenant association, of which Maloney is president. Still, when the process was complete, Maloney's rent went up $171.68 per month.

They are three New Yorkers with a lot in common: All are long-term tenants living in rent-stabilized apartments. All underwent the process known as Major Capital Improvements (MCIs), where landlords can institute building-wide construction and raise rents in perpetuity—that is, pass the costs on to tenants, even after the work has actually been paid off. And all three believe they were abused by this system.

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NYC Tenants File $10M Lawsuit Against Overcharging Landlords

NEW YORK—Even the politicians of the city are not immune from constant harassment, eviction attempts, and overcharges from landlords—if they live in rent-regulated apartments. “I’ve lived here all my life,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright outside his apartment building at The Riverton complex. “Since my mother carried me over the bridge as a baby.”

The Riverton in Harlem complex was built in 1949, with over 1,200 units, and Assemblyman Wright’s mother was the first to move into her building at the time. The residential development largely served the African American population as other projects like Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village restricted their tenancy based on race.

Today, it is one big melting pot and everyone, market-rate tenants included, are standing together against harassment from the landlords, Compass Rock Real Estate LLC, which is owned by CW Financial.

On Thursday, tenants and Wright filed a lawsuit against Compass Rock for $10 million for years of overcharging tenants through a variety of methods. “They are trying to nickel and dime us to death,” said Darren Pearson, second vice chair of the Riverton Tenants’ Association. Wright, who chairs the Housing Committee, discovered he was being billed multiple times for capital improvements the landlord may not have even made.

"Scam" Emails Involving Notices to Appear in Housing Court

from http://www.nycourts.gov/contactus/scamemails.shtml

Tenants and attorneys are reporting that scam emails, claiming to be from the New York State Court System, directing recipients to report to court and to open an attachment for more information, are infecting recipients’ computers with a virus.

Rent Control Protections Upheld Twice by Hoboken Voters

Rent Control Protections Upheld Twice by Hoboken Voters
Hoboken Fair Housing Association
http://hobokenfairhousing.com
November 15, 2013

Hoboken, New Jersey voters have decisively opted to maintain tenant protections in the November 5, 2013 election, exactly as they had in the November 2012 election. In spite of a well-funded opposition and concerns about vote-by-mail irregularities in both elections, the "NO" vote (upholding tenant protections) won by 122 votes, and by 52 votes last year.

These victories have a complicated history that began in the summer of 2012, when a developer/real estate investment group, Miles Square Taxpayers Association ("MSTA"), sponsored a petition-drive initiative to place a proposal on the November 2012 ballot as a local question.

The initiative allowed for permanent exemption from rent control all properties with 4 units or less whenever the current tenant vacated a unit voluntarily or by court-ordered eviction. For buildings with 5 or more units, the landlord would get complete vacancy decontrol (setting rents at whatever s/he wants) for each new tenant.

For the 2012 election, weeks in advance of the ballot printing, the Hoboken Fair Housing Association ("HFHA") members urged the city to change the misleading language of the initiative's ballot question, which read:

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