By Carla Zanoni
DNAinfo Reporter/ Producer
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Upper Manhattan tenants who can prove they were harassed by landlord Vantage Properties will be paid at least $1,000 for “emotional hardship” as part of a $1 million settlement reached between the notorious building owner and the state Attorney General's office.
Vantage Properties, which owns approximately 9,500 apartments in Queens and the northern reaches of Manhattan, was investigated following tenants' allegations that the landlord threatened to evict rent-regulated tenants and sent false notices saying some residents weren't allowed to renew their leases.
“We received complaints that Vantage was taking tenants to court and accusing them of not living in their primary residence when they were actually living there their whole lives,” Assistant Attorney General Brooke Davis told roughly 200 people who came to the Isabella Geriatric Center on Audobon Avenue Wednesday to learn more about the settlement.
“This agreement seeks to change that and address this behavior.”
Vantage has agreed to pay up to $750,000 to tenants who can prove they were harassed, and $250,000 to nonprofit groups that provide free legal counsel to tenants.
“Anything we can do to defend tenant rights we will make our top priority,” City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez told the group.
A claims administrator will soon be set up for tenants to contact in regard to applying for settlement money. Tenants will be asked to document any harm, legal fees or legal proceedings they have endured. Tenants will be directly contacted with information on who to contact to file.
Vantage has also agreed to reform its system of handling tenant complaints, instituted a new hotline for tenants and is in the process of launching a new blog in March where tenants and community members can learn more about what the landlord is doing in the neighborhood.
Vantage also recently signed a new agreement with District 15, Local 447 of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers to insure consistent maintenance of its buildings.
The Attorney General’s office will also monitor Vantage over the next three years.
"Vantage continues to implement 'best practices' in an effort to positively transform the historically tense relationship that New York City landlords and their tenants have experienced," said Davidson Goldin, a spokesman for Vantage.