Earlier this January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he has ended the reported harassment and intimidation of mainly Spanish-speaking immigrant tenants in nearly 1,800 apartments by reaching a settlement with Castellan Real Estate Partners/Liberty Place Property Management. The official agreement is between the New York State’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) and the real estate company which owns nearly 49 buildings in Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn and the South Bronx — the sites of the alleged mistreatment.
The allegations against Castellan, that led the TPU to open its investigation earlier this year, included failure to provide renewal leases; false fees on individuals’ rent statements when tenants have payment receipts; and requesting tenants provide documents proving income or Social Security numbers to determine citizenship status, all of which are illegal to do to existing leaseholders.
Additionally, the company and its employees are alleged to have personally threatened tenants, telling them they could face eviction because of their immigration status or lack-of-proof of adequate income. Tenants also detailed being pressured to accept inadequate buyouts to leave their rent-regulated homes and waive their rights through English-only settlement documents, given to tenants who could not read English.
Gov. Cuomo announced that both he and the TPU would hold landlords who harass and bully their tenants accountable, and imposed a strict settlement which include many enforcement measures. Some of the enforcement measures require TPU to hire a monitor (to be paid by Castellan and approved by TPU) for up to 3 years to ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement; establish a $100,000 fund, administered by the TPU-approved monitor, to compensate tenants who may have been subject to wrongful conduct; establish new written business policies and procedures that address the landlord’s previous improper requests; and have all of its employees undergo training to prevent future potential abuses of tenants and ensure Castellan’s accountability. The settlement even allowed tenants who had been improperly removed or forced to vacate their homes to move back to a similar apartment.
Tenants who rent property in New York City and all over New York State need to know their rights to which they are entitled under their lease. If a landlord imposes improper demands, or does not provide heat, hot water, repairs or make conditions safe in the apartment, a tenant needs to take action to ensure the landlord complies in a timely fashion and/or is brought to justice. If you or a loved one have been a victim of illegal practices of a landlord or improper treatment, contact an experienced real estate attorney today. A skilled attorney will afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.