Sunday, March 13, 2016

State AG 'Bigfoots' Gentrifying NYC Landlord Into Backing Down From Sleazy Attempt To Arm-Twist Tenants Into Signng Lease Renewal Riders Preventing Them From Suing For Future Damage From Planned Renovation Project; One Provision Blocked Residents From Suing Over Lead Paint Dust

In New York City, the New York Daily News reports:
  • The owner of a Manhattan building where the real estate market is white hot told rent-regulated tenants they couldn’t sue if a planned construction project damaged their property.

    Starting in July, Atlas Capital Group LLC sent out the no-sue rider on renewal leases — a move the state attorney general says is blatantly illegal.

    Eric Schneiderman ordered Atlas to cease and desist, charging that the rider “runs afoul of numerous state and local tenant-protection laws,” according to a letter sent to Atlas Feb. 16.

    “Landlords should be on notice: The attorney general will take action against anyone using illegal tactics — including thinly veiled threats — to force New Yorkers out of their homes,” said Schneiderman spokesman Matt Mittenthal.

    After the warning from Schneiderman and an inquiry from the Daily News, the company backed down.

    “We look forward to making significant upgrades and improvements to the lobbies and common areas for our tenants. The residents who rent our apartments are important to us, so we chose to be fully transparent about the impending work,” said Jackie Renton, an Atlas executive. “We listened carefully to our tenants, and after meeting with them, decided to withdraw the rider going forward.”

    Atlas bought the 246 apartments in two aging prewar buildings on W. 23rd and W. 24th Sts. in Chelsea, one of the hottest real estate locations in New York. Tenants started noticing last summer construction riders that came with their lease renewal papers.

    Laura Shapiro, a rent-stabilized tenant who has lived at the W. 23rd St. address for decades, was shocked when she saw the language barring legal recourse due to construction damage. She noted the rider even included a provision barring tenants from suing over lead paint dust.

    “I was horrified. It was like somebody was choking me,” she said. “It was written in a way that they wouldn’t renew the lease if you didn’t sign it.”

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