Poorly maintained apartments, unfair late charges and confusing bills– are among the many accusations leveled at the Queens landlord Vantage Properties in the past two years. Many disgruntled tenants have claimed that Vantage’s business model is to push rent-stabilized tenants out and to replace them with tenants who pay the “market rate.”
In the past week, there have been signs that this adversarial relationship may be thawing. However, the ball is in Vantage’s court to follow up on a series of promises it has recently made to tenants. They include: clear billing statements, better customer service; and reinstalling 14 live-in superintendents, who left earlier this year.
Vantage owns 80 buildings in Queens, which include 15 in Sunnyside and 12 in Woodside, according to the Queens Vantage Tenants Association. Most were bought in 2008 and since then the company has faced some harsh criticism from tenants and local politicians.
There was a man, according to the Daily News, whose bathroom pipes were not repaired in a timely fashion– and a chunk of his upstairs ceiling came crashing down on his floor. There have been tenants alleging that their rent checks were deliberately not cashed until “after” the due date– so a late charge could be imposed. And tenants have been complaining that they can’t get the assistance they need, since the company has a “hot line” that has short business hours and is often not answered.
Vantage Properties, meanwhile, has maintained that the company has acted in a fair manner.
Nevertheless, the company is promising to make changes to the way it operates. Vantage, according to press reports, has said that it will introduce a new billing system that will make the bills clearer and easily understood. Neil Rubler, the chief executive of Vantage, was quoted in an Astoria Times article as conceding that they were “incredibly hard to understand.” Until the bills are revised, the company will not charge late fees.
But 14 apartment buildings still don’t have superintendents, according to the Queens Chronicle. And even if there are maintenance requests, tenants with live-in supers say they must go through a toll-free hotline anyway. Tenants claim that during business hours, representatives put them on hold indefinitely and if they call after 5 pm they are directed into voice mail.
Vantage said it will extend its service center hours until 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and increase its Saturday hours. It said it will provide complaint numbers to tenants (so they can track the progress of their concern) by the end of November.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave Vantage the right to put 24-hour hotlines in place instead of supers in 14 of its buildings. This permission was rescinded two months ago.
So far none have moved back into the buildings, according to the Queens Chronicle. And Vantage claims that it can only bring them back if an apartment becomes available in a building.