The Real Deal New York

Icon Realty Management settles with AG over tenant-harassment probe

Landlord has to pay $500K, resolve hazardous conditions
By Will Parker and Mark Maurer | September 27, 2017 12:51PM

From left: Todd Cohen and Terrence Lowenberg

Icon Realty Management reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General’s office, following a months-long probe into alleged tenant harassment at the landlord’s rent-regulated apartment buildings.

According to the AG’s announcement, the settlement between the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force and Icon requires the company to stop harassment tactics at its buildings and resolve hazardous living conditions. Icon will also have to pay a $300,000 fee to the State of New York and $200,000 to the city’s Housing Preservation and the Department of Buildings, figures that cumulatively account for a string of violations over time plus the costs of the investigation. It will also continue to abate the rents of tenants affected by service outages.

     Related: Icon Realty Management at center of tenant harassment probe

Investigators concluded that the company never obtained DOB permits or provided false information on such permits at some of its buildings and left tenants living in an unsafe environment full of dust and debris. A source familiar with the investigation, which was a joint effort between the AG, the state’s Tenant Protection Unit and HPD, said it encompassed 70 buildings with more than 1,900 tenants.

“Too often, bad landlords see rent-regulated apartments as a gold mine,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a release Wednesday, “looking to make a quick buck by using construction to harass tenants out of their homes.”

An attorney for Icon told TRD Wednesday that Icon “never, ever intended to harass tenants and the Task Force made no finding of harassment because none occurred, no tenants were displaced and any claim to the contrary is just political hype.”

The attorney, Ken Fisher, said that there were some “construction issues” in the buildings in question, which Icon had resolved and later compensated tenants with rent abatements.

The task force further found that Icon had repeatedly ignored tenant requests for apartment repairs and subjected them to long interruptions of heat, hot water and cooking gas service.

Apart from the construction matters addressed in the settlement, spokesperson for HCR told The Real Deal that tenants who believe they have been unlawfully overcharged as a consequence of actions taken by their landlord should contact the agency.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents parts of Lower Manhattan, described Icon’s practices as a “reign of terror.”

Like with past settlements with landlords such as Castellan Real Estate Partners, a state-appointed monitor will be tasked with ensuring Icon follows the AG’s new safety and tenant-protection policies.

As part of the settlement, Icon, led by Todd Cohen and Terrence Lowenberg, is not required to admit wrongdoing.

TRD first reported news of the probe in August. But Wednesday’s settlement may not put an end to the drama. Fisher, Icon’s attorney, described the task force’s press release as “completely overblown and misleading,” and said the “company is reviewing its legal actions.”