Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force Reaches Settlement with Large Landlord
The Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force recently announced a settlement with Greenbrook Holdings LLC. The landlord owns 188 buildings comprising approximately 1,000 units, many of which are rent stabilized, in New York City and State, with the majority in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn.
The Task Force is comprised of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, HPD, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), and the New York City Law Department (NYCLD).
The context: Between 2019 and 2021, the landlord purchased buildings and immediately began significant construction projects. As the landlord continued to purchase more buildings and take over management of those buildings, members of the Task Force received multiple complaints from tenants about management and habitability of some buildings, detailing issues such as unsafe conditions, unpermitted construction activities, warehoused apartments, lack of regular maintenance and repairs, failure to comply with rent regulation requirements, and harassment. In December 2020, HPD initiated comprehensive litigation against two of the buildings.
Site inspections coordinated by HPD with DOB and TPU revealed that the landlord was engaging in illegal and unsafe construction projects without the appropriate permits, often leaving tenants without access to essential resources such as water, heat, and gas. The landlord also consistently failed to file the required annual building and unit registrations for rent-stabilized tenants.
Overall, there are more than 1,200 open HPD violations and 700 total DOB violations throughout the landlord’s buildings.
The bottom line: The landlord agreed to stiff fines and strict oversight of its construction projects. The landlord agreed to hire, at its own expense, a Construction Review Monitor that will review and approve its tenant protection plans for all construction activities before submission to DOB for three years. The landlord must also hire a compliance officer to inspect and monitor all construction activities, including random unannounced inspections of construction sites. The landlord will also update paperwork and registrations for all buildings and units covered by New York City’s rent stabilization laws.
The settlement also identifies 10 buildings that have the most serious and concerning conditions, and the landlord must pay all current tenants who moved into those 10 buildings on or before July 1, 2021, a $7,500 rent credit. The landlord will also provide a 15 percent rental abatement per day for any tenant who experiences a disruption in access to water, heat, electricity, or gas going forward. In addition to these individual payments, the landlord will pay $100,000 in penalties for violations associated with the 10 properties.