Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Queens Landlord
Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo recently announced a lawsuit against a Queens landlord, Zara Realty, for violating rent stabilization laws and harassing tenants. The lawsuit alleges the landlord targeted tenants in at least 38 rent-stabilized buildings by charging excessive fees, coercing them into signing improper leases, illegally raising rents, and denying tenant rights. The Tenant Protection Unit of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) uncovered these practices over the course of a two-year investigation and partnered with the Attorney General to file the lawsuit.
The complaint says the landlord often illegally demands and charges new tenants illegal key money, room reservation fees, advanced rent, and excessive security deposits. Tenants who continue to reside in the buildings are often illegally charged late fees and fees for services they’re entitled to for free, such as regular apartment maintenance.
According to the complaint, Zara Realty regularly charges tenants moving into its buildings and tenants moving apartments within the same building a broker’s fee under the name “Jasmine Homes, LLC,” a company controlled by the Subraj family, though the Rent Stabilization Code prohibits landlord from collecting a broker’s fee. In addition, Zara Realty also charges tenants security deposits that equal three- to four-times the monthly rent, though the Rent Stabilization Code allows a landlord to collect only one month’s rent as security.
The complaint also alleges that when Zara Realty takes over a new building, it changes the building’s front door lock and requires that tenants pay fees of up to $200 per key for the new lock. It also requires that tenants submit to background checks or sign new leases if they want a key. The investigation found that some tenants paid more than $11,000 simply to move into their rent-stabilized apartment.
In the filing, the Attorney General seeks an injunction against Zara Realty on behalf of HCR, and it additionally seeks disgorgement, restitution, and other equitable relief under the New York Executive Law.