Sunday, August 30, 2015

Another NYC Landlord Probed For Alleged Attempts To Strong-Arm Tenants Out Of Below-Market Rate, Rent-Regulated Apartments; Renters Nix Buyout Offers Of Up To $50K To Relinquish Rights, Prefer To Stay Put

In New York City, the New York Daily News reports (via The Real Deal (NYC)):
  • State officials have launched an investigation into an East Village landlord accused of strong-arming tenants into giving up their rent-regulated apartments, the Daily News has learned.

    The state’s tenant protection unit served subpoenas on companies controlled by landlord Raphael Toledano as part of a probe into claims of abusive behavior by his agents, including threats of eviction and the shutting off of gas and other essential services, officials said.

    State officials were made aware of the accusations against Toledano by the Urban Justice Center, which is representing a group of tenants — mostly Mexican immigrants — at 444 E. 13th St. in a lawsuit against the Toledano-controlled Goldmark Property Management.

    “There has been repeated pressure, repeated intimidation to push them out,’ said Keriann Pauls, a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center.

    Pauls said tenants secretly recorded Toledano’s agents making trumped-up claims of looming police and immigration raids, rent hikes and structural problems in an effort to force them to sign agreements surrendering their rights to their apartments.

    Jeffrey Goldman, an attorney for Toledano, denied his client was harassing tenants.

    “I have not seen him engage in any behavior or conduct that would give rise to an investigation let alone a finding of harassment,” said Goldman.

    The Cuomo administration said it has “zero tolerance” for anyone trying to harass tenants out of their apartments. “We created the tenant protection unit to crack down on these shameful practices and, with this most recent action, we’re sending a clear message that abhorrent behavior has no place in New York,” the governor’s office told The News.

    Toledano purchased the building in January. Rent-stabilized tenants in the building pay between $800 and $1,400 a month for small one- and two-bedroom units that could be worth up to $4,000 a month in the gentrifying neighborhood.

    Tenants claim Goldmark immediately offered $15,000 buyouts to get them to leave and later upped the offer to $50,000. Many tenants, however, refused to budge.

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