Recently, the New York State Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement with a real estate developer protecting tenants’ rights and prohibiting an unfair buy-out agreement. In an effort to convert a historic Manhattan apartment building into a luxury condominium, the landlord illegally induced tenants to leave. Before the developers received approval to put the apartments on the market, they illegally bought out tenants, many of whom had resided at the location for many years.
Several of these units were rent controlled and inhabited by residents who had lived there for decades, some paying only $830 a month. While construction was on-going in the 44 unit building, residents of 11 units chose to remain in their apartments while they were subjected to loud construction work, dust, debris, no hot water, and general upheaval to their daily lives. The developer’s plan was to reduce the number of apartments by nearly half to create larger ones, and they offered tenants a fraction of what the apartment would be worth once it was converted to a condominium. The tenants were offered between $40,000-$100,000 as an incentive to leave their units, although the market value of the units was estimated to be $2 million or more after the conversion.
Due to the illegal behavior of the developer, the Attorney General stepped in and mandated that two years rent be waived for the eleven tenants who chose to remain in the building, $6,000 paid to the tenants who incurred legal fees, and a $350,000 fine to be paid to the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, the Attorney General ordered the developer to contribute $1.24 million toward the construction of affordable housing at another location, since rent stabilized apartments were lost during the condominium conversion. The landlord is also required to hold monthly meetings to offer the tenants an opportunity to express their concerns.
The building was also been cited for many construction code violations for hazardous conditions and improper asbestos removal.
Landlords have a duty to the tenants inhabiting their buildings to provide suitable housing. The Implied Warranty of Habitability includes the right to occupy habitable premises free from unhealthy conditions and excessive noise. In addition, the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment gives tenants the right to live in an abode without disturbances.
If you feel that your rights as a tenant have been violated, contact the skilled New York City landlord-tenant attorneys at the Law Office of Tanya Hobson-Williams. Please contact us online, toll free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights as a tenant and the solutions available to you.
To read more about this issue, click here for an article recently published in the New York Times.