By Mariel S. Clark
MANHATTAN — Attorney General Andrew Cuomo settled with one of Manhattan's largest landlords on Thursday after threatening to sue the property owner for allegedly harassing thousands of rent-regulated tenants.
Vantage Properties will pay a $1 million settlement, most of which will go to some of the more than 9,500 tenants potentially victimized by the company, according to Cuomo.
Cuomo had threatened to sue Vantage after he said the company harassed renters and falsely used the Housing Court eviction process to force out rent-regulated tenants in order to bring in higher paying renters.
“Landlords who harass tenants harm all New York City residents by displacing long-time tenants from stable neighborhoods and exacerbating the affordable housing shortage,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In these tough economic times, the preservation of affordable housing is of the utmost importance."
Vantage owns more than 125 buildings in Washington Heights, Inwood, Harlem and Queens. The company allegedly set quotas for each building to determine how many residents they needed to oust to increase profits, according to Cuomo's office.
Tenants unjustly evicted from their apartments will get $750,000 of the settlement. Vantage must pay the remaining $250,000 to non-profit organizations that provide free educational and legal services to tenants.
The settlement also required Vantage to employ new policies regarding tenant complaints, legal proceedings, rent collection and succession rights.
“Many tenants who are dealing with housing issues may not be citizens and may not fully know their rights as New York City residents," said Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat in a statement. "Attorney General Cuomo’s agreement with Vantage is structured to help solve this problem."