Legal Aid Sues Landlord at 60 Clarkson for Illegal Rents and Deplorable Conditions

The Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the landlord at 60 Clarkson Street for charging tenants illegal rents and forcing them to live in deplorable and inhumane conditions.  

The lawsuit, filed in Supreme Court in Kings County,  charges that the landlord has failed to comply with rent stabilization laws and regulations and failed to maintain the building in a habitable condition.  Deplorable conditions include broken fire escapes, crumbling plaster and peeling paint, broken floors, roach and mice infestations, improper trash disposal, missing smoke detectors, and missing carbon monoxide detectors. 

The 83-unit building in Prospect Lefferts Gardens was mostly rent-stabilized apartments until around five years ago, when the landlord began moving in homeless families through the  cluster site program, and collecting higher monthly fees of around $3,000 per apartment. The Legal Aid Society maintains that because nearly all of the residents have lived at 60 Clarkson for so long, they qualify as rent stabilized residents, and therefore have the right to sign leases and stay in the building for as many years as they can pay a rent stabilized lease. “We firmly believe that all the residents here at 60 Clarkson are rent-stabilized tenants and they’re deserving of those protections,”  according to Kathleen Brennan, the Staff Attorney who is the lead attorney on the case.

In late June 2015 The Legal Aid Society was contacted by several community partners in Brooklyn. They were concerned about a notice from the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) received by many homeless families who reside in a “scatter site” building on Clarkson Street.  The apartments were rented by the owner to a non-profit and were used as Tier II and Scatter Housing for homeless families pursuant to agreements between the non-profit and DHS. The notice informed the families that they were being moved out of the building almost immediately despite the fact that many have lived in the building for several years.

The building is subject to the Rent Stabilization Law, the Rent Stabilization Code, and the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. The annual rent registration statements filed by the owner with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) indicate that as of April 28, 2015, 68 of the 83 apartments in the subject premises were rented to the non-profit. Each time an apartment was rented by the non-profit, the owner filed a rent registration statement for the apartment which listed a Legal Regulated Rent (LRR) significantly higher than the prior registered LRR. Inexplicably, all the registration statements filed for the apartments rented by the non-profit list the exact same LRR; none of which bare any relationship to the prior registered LRR. Similarly, the rent registration statements for the 15 apartments rented by individual tenants also claimed LRR’s far in excess of the previous LRR. 

The Legal Aid Society believes that the owner of the building is violating the applicable rent stabilization laws and regulations by renting apartments to the non-profit as an illusory prime tenant, failing to offer the homeless families occupying the apartments valid rent stabilized leases, and filing patently false annual rent registration statements with DHCR.  By doing so, the owner is in violation of Rent Stabilization Code §§2522.5 by not only failing to provide valid rent stabilized leases, but also by charging tenants, or the parties or agencies paying rent or on behalf of those tenants, a rent in excess of the last legal regulated rent (LRR).  In addition, the landlord has failed to comply with the Housing Maintenance Code and The Legal Aid Society is suing him to compel him to make repairs.

View the Complaint