Heritage Realty to face suit over alleged rent overcharges

Tenants claim Hudson Heights building has lost 40% of its rent-stabilized units in a decade
September 22, 2016 01:45PM

854 West 180th Street in Hudson Heights

854 West 180th Street in Hudson Heights

UPDATED, 2:48 p.m., Sept. 22: A group of tenants is planning to sue the landlord, Heritage Realty, at their Hudson Heights building for overcharging on rent and deregulating apartments.

Twelve tenants are seeking to recover rent overcharges from the owner of a six-story, 49-unit rental building at 854 West 180th Street. The lawsuit is expected to be filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court.

The tenants first became concerned when they noticed a large number of the building’s rent-stabilized apartments had been deregulated, DNAinfo reported. Many new tenants have also been asked to sign waivers acknowledging protections under rent-stabilized law does not apply to them.

With the help of nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative, the tenants examined rent histories dating back to 1984. Their investigation found the building had lost around 40 percent of its rent-stabilized units over the past decade.

The tenants allege that property management firm Heritage Realty has tried to drive the concerned tenants out by giving them massive rent hikes, according to the website. One tenant signed a lease for $2,200 a month last year, and was recently given a lease renewal for $3,600 – an increase of 64 percent.

Brian Newman of Heritage Realty told DNAinfo he was unaware of the lawsuit.

The tenants’ lawsuit alleges the building is covered by protections. They say the only way for units to be legally removed from the rent stabilization roster is if the building spends almost $40,000 on individual renovations, which has not happened.

“This case is a classic example of unfettered action taken by an investor to undermine both the intent and purpose of rent stabilization and the preservation of affordable housing,” Kim Powell, director of Housing Rights Initiative, told the website.

In July, The Real Deal looked at how tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been improperly excluded from a program that protects tenants from New York City’s exploding housing costs. [DNAinfo]Miriam Hall

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the name of the landlord. It is Heritage Realty.