New York AG to sue landlord over tenant harassment

January 28, 2010 5:11:39 PM PST
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced his intent to sue Vantage Properties, a major New York City landlord, to stop it from harassing tenants in rent-regulated apartments. He is also seeking to obtain monetary damages for tenants who have been victimized.

Since March 2006, Vantage has purchased more than 125 buildings containing more than 9,500 apartments - almost all of which are rent-regulated - throughout Queens, Harlem and Upper Manhattan. Cuomo alleges that Vantage is taking action to force long-term, rent-regulated tenants to move out of their homes, and imposing significant rent increases on new tenants in order to increase profits.

Cuomo say Vantage aggressively pressures long-term tenants by serving baseless legal notices and commencing frivolous Housing Court eviction proceedings.

"Landlords who illegally harass tenants to boost their bottom line do great harm to the fabric of this city," Cuomo said. "Their underhanded tactics displace long-time residents from their homes and exacerbate the acute affordable housing shortage."

After purchasing a building, Vantage allegedly tries to evict tenants by falsely claiming that they do not primarily live in their apartments or that they have failed to pay rent. The filing claims Vantage's actions are often based on information that is incorrect or information that Vantage should know is false.

In some cases, Cuomo alleges, Vantage refuses to cash rent payments from tenants and then begins Housing Court eviction proceedings based on nonpayment of rent.

Under New York City law, it is unlawful for a landlord or property owner to harass tenants. Specifically, landlords cannot interfere with or disturb the privacy, comfort, peace or repose of quiet enjoyment of the tenant in his or her use or occupancy of the housing accommodation, or engage in harassing conduct intended to cause the tenant to vacate such housing accommodation.