According to New York law, landlords are prohibited from demanding proof of income or proof of citizenship from tenants who have already signed valid leases. Castellan Real Estate Partners, a large real estate firm in New York City, was accused by tenants of violating that law.
The city's tenant protection unit investigated the allegations for seven months, and in an unusual settlement, the firm has agreed to provide compensation to Spanish-speaking tenants who were improperly made to leave their rent-stabilized apartments. Castellan has also agreed to submit to three years of outside monitoring, though the conditions of the settlement do not require the firm to admit to any wrongdoing.
Castellan owns 49 state-regulated properties in Brooklyn, Washington Heights, Harlem and the South Bronx. In particular, the firm was accused of threatening to evict tenants who didn't provide passports, pay stubs or proof of citizenship. Reportedly, many tenants from Ecuador and Mexico were pressured into signing vacate agreements.
A spokesperson from the Housing and Community Renewal Division, whose tenant protection agency investigated the allegations, said that Castellan will set up a $100,000 fund to pay back wrongfully removed tenants or help them return to their homes.
This past spring, residents of some of the Castellan buildings protested what they said was landlord intimidation, showing documents to support their claims.
Evidence in such a case is crucial. New York residents who are engaged in a landlord-tenant dispute may want to speak with an attorney with experience in handling these kinds of disputes. An attorney will be able to examine the legal circumstances of the case and weigh the evidence, as well as determine a course of action for achieving a favorable outcome.
Source: New York Daily News, "Gonzalez: Castellan Real Estate Partners will agree to pay back Spanish-speaking tenants forced out of apartments," Juan Gonzalez, Jan. 15, 2014