July 31, 2017 By Jason Cohen
Nearly 70 tenants—many of whom live in Sunnyside and Woodside buildings–are part of a class action law suit that alleges that their management company has been illegally jacking up their rent by falsely inflating the cost of apartment improvements across its entire portfolio of properties.
The lawsuit, which has 67 plaintiffs, was filed Tuesday against Forest Hills-based Bronstein Properties, one of the largest residential landlords in New York City. The suit was filed in the New York Supreme Court on behalf of the named plaintiffs as well as all of Bronstein’s tenants who paid inflated rent between July 25, 2013 and today.
Many of the named plaintiffs are tenants from as many as seven Sunnyside and Woodside buildings.
The suit, filed by the New York City-law firm Newman Ferrara, claims that Bronstein and its owner Barry Rudofsky have been in violation of New York City’s Rent Stabilization laws, which has led to unfair rent hikes.
Under the law, landlords are able to increase rent on rent stabilized apartments based on annual increases set by the Rent Guidelines Board, as well if there are major capital improvements to the buildings, such as elevators, new roofs or new windows, or if there is a vacancy or renovations to individual apartments.
The plaintiffs claim that many of the renovations to individual apartments were not done and the rents were increased illegally.
Landlords are allowed to pass on the cost of upgrades, such as redoing a bathroom or putting in a dishwasher, to new tenants through rent increases. They are not allowed to increase the rent for normal maintenance, like painting an apartment, or for repairs.
Among the plaintiffs are Clement Chan and Matthew Haensly, who reside at 43-32 47th Street in Sunnyside. The rent on their apartment, according to the lawsuit, was increased by $1,316.86 above what the previous tenant paid before they occupied their apartment.
This 141 percent increase, the lawsuit reads, would have required more than $67,800 in improvements to the apartment to be justifiable. However, an inspection of their apartment showed that no such improvements were made, according to the suit. They are joined in the lawsuit by several other tenants in Sunnyside.
The tenants live in the following buildings:
45-42 41st Street
43-32 47th Street
43-35 42nd Street
42-09 47th Avenue
43-09 40th Street
43-17 48th Street
43-39 42nd Street
47-21 41nd Street
Two tenants from Woodside make similar claims, according to the lawsuit. Jonathan Leung and Luke Van Dee Veer live at 39-89 51st Street. Their regulated rent was increased by $781.25 above what the previous tenant paid. This 76 percent increase would have required more than $30,800 in upgrades, according to the lawsuit. Like the other apartments, an inspection showed that no improvements were made, the plaintiffs claim.
The suit alleges that “it is reasonable to conclude that the practices complained of herein affect hundreds, if not thousands, of current and former tenants in the Bronstein Portfolio.”
Bronstein did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Improvements to individual apartments allow landlords to permanently increase the rent of a rent-stabilized apartment by roughly 2 percent of the total cost of improvements, according to Rent Stabilization laws. However, landlords are not required to submit receipts to the government in order to prove the costs: it is based solely on an honor system.
“In theory, Individual Apartment Improvements are used to rehabilitate apartments,” said Aaron Carr, founder of the Housing Rights Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to working on behalf of tenants in rent stabilized buildings. “In practice, they are a breeding ground for rent fraud and a sinkhole for our city’s affordable housing stock.” The suit comes in the wake of an investigation by the Housing Rights Initiative.
The non-profit also claims that that it discovered that Bronstein has been receiving millions of dollars in J-51 tax breaks in return for providing rent stabilized housing, while cheating tenants out of their affordability.
Bronstein Properties has received more than $4,000,000 in active J-51 tax benefits and millions of dollars more in expired benefits, according to the lawsuit. More than 70 of their buildings have received J-51 tax benefits at one point or another, according to the suit. Landlords receive J-51 in return for rehabilitating apartment buildings. As a condition to receiving benefits pursuant to the J-51 Program, a building owner must provide its tenants with the protections of the rent stabilization laws.
The plaintiffs are calling on Bronstein to charge rents in line with what is legal and to provide evidence of the improvements it made. Second, on behalf of the named plaintiffs and current and former tenants in the Bronstein buildings, it seeks damages for rent paid over and above the legal amount and attorneys fees.
Complaint 7-25-17 (Stamped) by Queens Post on Scribd
As a young boy, I lived next door to one of the building plaintiffs (43-17 48th Street), at 43-33 48th Street, Sunnyside. My family had a 3-room apartment, on the 4th floor. Get this-my parents were paying $57 a month rent, when we moved to Long Island, late March of 1960! Five years ago, someone living nearby told me that my old apartment was likely going for $1,750-$2,000 a month now!!
Bronsein got me for 3 grand.
Yeah right. Another guy trying to make a payday
Get out of here all of you. Go buy a house instead of living in a cheap apartment.
$680? His rents probably paid late Every month too. I can’t blame unfair to landlords for ranting now that I’m a home owner. I rent my basement out for a 1000,all utilities included, and the rent is late every month and the people are slobs. Next house will be a 1 family and no Tennant.
And your basement is probably an illegal rental!!!!
Also your all pigs. Take better care of your apartment and the building in general
You can’t spell.
How’s this for spelling
We deserve to make money on our investment. You people should leave
Investments where you get the money from the banks then get your tax breaks from tax payers, you do nothing but drive around the city trying to scam regular people, what a life….
You people want everything for nothing. Landlords get screwed all the time by you uneducated minions. This guy here, $680 a month and his kids are going to get it and cry if the rent goes up. All cry babies. $680! Nobody should be able to pay only $680 in today’s prices and in this area. Us landlords deserve better
I have been living in a rent stabilized apartment for 30 years. I am ready to retire. I pay 680 a month. I want to either pass the apartment to my adult child or ask my landlord for a buy out? What is reasonable? What is the process? Do i need a lawyer? Where can i find some assistance? When my building went Co-op in the 80’s I could have bought the apartment for around 8,000 but still would have had to pay maintenance for 200 and my rent was 200. I really regret it.
Your a dope
You’re the problem with rent regulations. You want something for nothing.
You deserve nothing. You had a chance to better yourself and but the place but you chose to take the easy way out and let some else pay the bills you don’t deserve a dime
I have been living in a rent stabilized apartment for 30 years. I am ready to retire. I pay 680 a month. I am debating on passing the apartment down to my adult child or asking the land lord for a buy out? How much should I ask for? And how the heck do I even approach it? Do i need a lawyer for this?… Where can i go for some assistance through the process…
Why would they buy you out?
Ready to retire. You are what is so wrong with rent stabilization. Why do you deserve a buyout or the right to pass it to your children luke you own the place. Disgusting.
I used to rent from this unscrupulous landlord, which together with an equally unscrupulous agent, rented me a mold infested apartment in Woodside. I didn’t notice until winter came and the mold came through the paint. Like the lawsuit alleges, they also increased my rent based on wear and tear maintenance of common areas. Not based on improvements. Much less improvements on my apartment. I’m glad I was out of there.
Correction. Not in Woodside. Woodhaven: 84-25 85th Road.
Sorry about the spell check- maker/market — remnant/tenant
People live in these places for 20-30-40-50 years and they pay in my opinion a rent that’s way too low. Landlords then get stuck with the bloodsucking relative who does not deserve this price. I don’t hear any whining about that. Landlords have to keep the building up to par, that cost money you could not imagine. You people have no clue what it cost. When an apartment is vacated a landlord should be able to charge maker value,whatever the change in rent may be. Why should a brand new remnant be able to take advantage. From what I read here even with the increase, Its still affordable. Everybody wants to take advantage. Why should this Chan and haensley be able to live here on and not pay. They probably both got over for years
Some of the people who have live in the area at least the last 20 to 40 years are not living the good life. We struggle to pay rent as it increases, deal with terrible neighbors that are switched in and out due to the inability to pay the higher rents, and have had the majority of requests for improvement ignored because we are not a priority. We have be treated as if we are uneducated with no rights with terrible tactics from the landlords you say are getting the raw deal. If the rents were reasonable, at a legal rent pricing, and no shenanigans such as not sending the lease or forcing tenants out via fear tactics as Bronstein has done, maybe tenants would stay and apartments would not be vacant, reducing the amount of lost revenue. I was raised in a building that had been under the torture of this company. Trust me when I say that while there are those tenants that step over the line of what is right or wrong and cause undue stress to landlords, there are landlords like Bronstein that are the scum of the earth. I challange you to learn more about the people you accuse of paying too low rent and taking advantage. If you don’t like it, LEAVE.
They agree to the tax benefits of offering rent regulated apts. They’re not forced to take the benefit. Save your sympathy!
Oil beef hooked. These buildings are already rent stabilized. The only way they can afford to keep them from crumbling is to take the j51 tax break to do any work. Clearly you are on the receiving end of the deal
To start with, these buildings are not “up to par.” However, that is not even the issue, which is maintaining rent stabilized apartments at a legal, regulated rent. Unfair to landlords – do you know anything about rent stabilization, that allows us to continue living in our apartments knowing exactly how much the rent will be raised when the lease is up for renewal? Rents in Sunnyside are raised illegally. The “legal” rent for my apartment in Sunnyside is $3,012.59. That’s what I was paying Manhattan for a one bedroom with a terrace. So what the landlord says is a “legal” rent is not truly legal.
What I’d your building was formally managed by Bronstein?
the largest landlord in nyc? never even heard of them. brookfield, sl green, vornado, tishman..those are the big ones.
Its all about money. What is the rate for years, a professional tenant with multiple court dates for nonpayment and multiple building complaints filed with NYC.
Contact your local TPU (Tenant Professional Unit) a nice cash settlement to have you leave. Market value is paid for an apartment. Owners are happy to have you leave. Settle Settle Settle $$$$$$$ Big Bucks You’ll be surprised to hear what everyone is leaving with now!!!
yeah i may be in the minority but…
why should someone be forced to rent it out cheap when they can get more money, Taxes are going crazy due to crazy property values….
see recent SSP story about increased property values of 12-20% WHICH also translates into insane property tax increases. If youre in a coop you know this is happening and you probably getting a nice maint increase this year.
the measly increase in rent doesnt come close to the increasing property taxes and higher ins rates due to value increase. There should be a reasonable assessment.
For elderly i understand and agree we should help but there are crooks on both sides…. grandkids taking over grandmas apt after shes gone.
Because they are taking tax breaks for offering rent regulated apartments … that’s why.
Talk about getting ripped off look at the fool who paid 1.9 mil for the ss garden house
Hahaha so funny
Sunnyside Post left out 47-21 41st Street
Thanks for noticing. Update made.
They should include the buildings formally Managed by Vantage Cooper and first service and now A&E they all doing the same thing they all pushing Unnecessary capitol improvements and scare tactics to eviction to old time Rent stabilized and Controlled tenants in 20 year i’m paying for new windows 3 boilers 2 sets of lobby doors 2 sets of intercoms 1 roof outside and inside security cameras widows and now they are redoing the windows brickwork roof and plumbing and gas lines and there are no housing violations on my building for any of these and the building is filthy other that moved via buyout or left as of death apartmnes under $500. and way below are being rented and listed for $1895.00 or more
Nope, not the same thing. You need to obtain your rent history. Improvements to the building are not the same as improvements to individual apartments.
ther all bad companies like i said they all doing the same thing jacking up rents one way or another ……in the end of what i wrote “other that moved via buyout or left as of death apartments under $500. and way below are being rented and listed for $1895.00 or more” and i know personally of a 1 bedroom thay they jumped from under $500.oo that rented for $2195.for a walk up
My landlord is always increasing based on building improvements (must be invisible though)
Welcome to the world of building ownership. Things need to be changed. If you weren’t a rent stabilization moocher and had to live in the real world you would understand things need to be replaced.
“However, landlords are not required to submit receipts to the government in order to prove the costs: it is based solely on an honor system.”
Really?! Well, no wonder!
Thanks for writing this story. It’s a pubic service.
“A pubic service” spot on. People get ridiculously cheap rent and landlords get tax breaks, taxpayers get the shaft. Truly a “pubic service”.
How can I join? I used to live at 45-42 41 St
You need to obtain your rent history from DCHR.
Is it too late to join the lawsuit?
I’m sure it isn’t. And if they are able to certify a class, everyone would be included. It is worth calling the lawyers.
If certified as a class and a sub-class no need to call lawyers. Everyone effected will be included.
This is how big NYC real-estate moguls make their money — by bilking tenants and grifting handouts from the govt
oye vey! very true.
Sad thing is the real estate developers think they’re “great business geniuses” … when, in fact, they’d be nowhere without outrageous tax breaks and special treatment from the gov’t. Then they take advantage of them to benefit themselves, and screw hardworking people.
Get rid of rent control and rent stabilization and let the chips fall.
Getting rid of rent stabilization is the only way to fix these issues. The tenants bringing the lawsuit are just as geedy as the landlord. They deserve each other. These people went apartment searching, found what they felt was the best deal….rented it and then cried fowl when they find a loophole. Disgusting