For five months, a tenant in East Harlem paid $1 a month in rent because his landlord, Isaac Kassirer’s Emerald Equity Group, did not file paperwork to a regulator.
But what seemed like a lucky break — born from a bad one — didn’t last.
Last year, Yuri Kavalerchick returned to his East Harlem apartment to find that a pile of debris and construction materials outside of his bedroom window was on fire, sending up a sheet of flame so hot that it cracked glass. The Fire Department doused it, but his home was left an “uninhabitable smoldering ruin,” according to Kavalerchick.
Though the landlord, Emerald Equity Group, offered Kavalerchick a replacement apartment, Kavalerchick opted to find his own lodging while his fire-ravaged abode at 244 East 117th Street was repaired.
Meanwhile, because the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order on the apartment, city officials alerted Kavalerchick’s lawyer at Manhattan Legal Services that he could submit a form to the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal and pay just $1 in rent for his rent-stabilized apartment.
Kavalerchick filed the form and was granted the rent reduction, according to records from the agency.
Repairs were made and the vacate order was rescinded two months later, in October 2018, according to the Department of Buildings. But that didn’t automatically restore the rent, which remained $1 until the landlord filed an application with Homes and Community Renewal in March.
The regular rent was then restored retroactive to the date that the apartment was rendered habitable. Kavalerchik is now paying back rent in installments over 24 months. Essentially, he got an interest-free loan from the landlord.
Emerald Equity Group did not comment.
To explain Emerald Equity’s delinquency, Kroll Bonds Rating Agency cited the rent reforms passed in June, which dramatically reduced landlords’ ability to increase rents in rent-stabilized units, virtually eliminated their ability to remove apartments from rent stabilization and lowered the amount that landlords could be reimbursed for apartment and building-wide improvements.
The reforms, according to Kroll, curtailed Emerald Equity Group’s business plan to convert many unit rents to market-rate.