MANHATTAN — The tenants of an East Harlem Housing complex claim their landlord has been illegally hiking the rent of their rent stabilized units and trying to evict some who haven't paid the increase, according to a $10 million lawsuit.
The Riverton Tenant’s Association charged that the management company CompassRock Real Estate has been misapplying rent increases for capital improvements to tenants in a dozen buildings in the complex since 2010, according to a suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday.
"I have received too many complaints of baseless increases from my neighbors," said Randreta Ward-Evans, president of the tenant’s association. “I believe this is a willful pattern to harm the bedrock and fabric of my community. We will fight until we win.”
State Assemblyman Keith Wright, who lives in the Riverton complex and was also overcharged, discovered the rent increases at free monthly legal consultations he offers to constituents.
"I was not shocked at all," he said. "They are an investment firm, not a real estate firm."
The $10 million figure comes from an estimate of how much CompassRock made from the rent hikes. They were making between $50,000 and $100,000 a month, Wright said.
Over the last seven to 12 months, more and more tenants came in with eviction notices for failing to pay rent. After a few months, a pattern began to emerge, said Naja Roache, the assemblyman’s spokeswoman.
Money from the rent increases has been used to fund capital projects, according to the lawsuit.
The buildings are on 2255 Fifth Ave., 2235 Fifth Ave., 2255 Fifth Ave., 2265 Fifth Ave., 10 East 138th St., 2200 Madison Ave., 2160 Madison Ave., 2170 Madison Ave., 2190 Madison Ave., 45 East 135th St., 2171 Madison Ave. and 2181 Madison Ave.
CompassRock, which also manages Peter Cooper Village / Stuyvesant Town, did not respond to requests for comment.
The assemblyman said he reached out to the group before filing the lawsuit but it did not respond.
Last year, tenants at Peter Cooper and Stuy Town received an unexpected mid-lease rent increase. Some were asked to pay an additional $1,000.