Victims of the Trump Organization’s alleged tax-dodging scheme most likely paid tens of millions of dollars in undue rent increases over the past two decades, according to the New York Times.
In the 1990s, the future president and his siblings set up sham businesses that allowed them to increase rents on rent-regulated apartments, a Times investigation found.
But because those increases were baked into the base rent used to calculate the annual increase the city has approved on rent-regulated leases, tenants today are still paying for those unjust hikes.
Available records can’t give the full story of just how much the Trumps’ scheme cost tenants. But a onetime increase of $10 in 1995 on all the 8,000 apartments involved would work out to more than $33 million tenants have overpaid in rent since then, according to the Times.
“If they passed on phony costs to tenants, they should lower our rents,” said Jack Leitner, a tenant who has lived in the Beach Haven Apartments that Fred Trump built in Coney Island for more than two decades.
Trump did not respond to requests for comment from the Times.
The statute of limitations covering the Trumps’ alleged tax scheme expired long ago, but civil cases could still be brought. And tenants’ rights attorneys say current and former Trump tenants may be able to challenge past increases.
“If I was talking to those tenants right now, I’d say: ‘Do it. Go,’” said Michael Grinthal, supervising lawyer with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. “This case should be fought.” [NYT] – Rich Bockmann