More than 100 current and former tenants of an East Harlem building can join a civil lawsuit that accuses landlord Steve Croman of illegally deregulating apartments.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Franc Perry granted the tenants of 326-340 East 100th Street class action status in a lawsuit brought against Croman by the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, the New York Daily News reported.
That means Croman can now be sued by each tenant who was affected by an alleged illegal deregulation of rent-stabilized units in the building, according to the newspaper.
The lawsuit claims Croman illegally removed about 70 percent of the 92 units in the building from the state’s rent regulation program. He allegedly charged market-rate rents for the units, did not sign proper leases with tenants and failed to register the deregulated units with the state, allowing him to continue collecting tax benefits, the lawsuit claims.
If Croman is found guilty, Housing Rights Initiative estimates the rent refunds could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nicole Sosnowski, an attorney for Croman, did not respond to a request for comment. In court papers she argued, “Allegations regarding ‘Croman’s past conduct’ are more prejudicial than probative.” She also said that the state Division of Homes and Community Renewal should handle the rent overcharge claims, rather than the court.
HRI originally filed the lawsuit back in 2018, when Croman was still in jail on mortgage and tax fraud charges. The multifamily landlord was released in June 2018, and was recently involved in the $14 million purchase of the literary haunt White Horse Tavern.
In 2017, he agreed to a deal with the New York state Attorney General’s Office to pay a record $8 million in restitution to the tenants that were harassed. It was the largest settlement with an individual landlord in New York history at the time. An independent manager was put in charge of more than 100 of his buildings, and the court appointed a monitor to ensure compliance. [NYDN] – Erin Hudson