Legal Services NYC and The Legal Aid Society Are Assisting Pinnacle Tenants with Settlement Claims
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

More than 30,000 tenants across 550 Pinnacle-owned buildings in New York City may be eligible for monetary damages under the court-approved settlement of a class action lawsuit that challenged Pinnacle’s treatment of tenants with rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments.

Legal Services NYC and The Legal Aid Society have set up a Pinnacle Legal Assistance Helpline at 1-888-736-8115 to provide free legal help to current and former Pinnacle tenants, regardless of income, in understanding the terms of the settlement agreement and filing claims before the new extended deadline of December 31, 2014. The earlier deadline of October 27, 2014 was extended due to Pinnacle’s failure to provide information necessary for effective outreach regarding the settlement.

The settlement is the result of a 2007 lawsuit filed by tenants against Pinnacle to force Pinnacle to reform its conduct with respect to its rent-regulated tenants. Pinnacle had been trying to drive its rent regulated tenants out of their homes to collect higher rents or convert from rental to condo/coop ownership. The lawsuit made use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO, which is typically associated with organized crime groups. Pinnacle was accused of committing conspiratorial acts to oust tenants in order to raise rents.

The settlement agreement was approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last fall and went into effect on April 27, 2014. Nearly 400 claims have already been submitted as part of the settlement. Tenants who lived in a Pinnacle building between July 11, 2004 and April 27, 2010 may be eligible for compensation if they were subjected to rent overcharges and/or harassment by Pinnacle.

Current tenants are also protected and may be eligible for monetary compensation. As part of the settlement, Pinnacle agreed to new rules, called “Protocols,” for rent increases, bringing eviction cases, and responding to apartment repair requests in a prompt and timely manner (within 24 hours for hazardous conditions and within 3 business days for other complaints). The Protocols also require that Pinnacle provide additional transparency in showing how rents are being calculated and provide documentation to tenants requesting evidence supporting initial rent or rent increase amounts. A full copy of the Protocols as well as other relevant information is available at www.rentlitigation.com.

Current tenants experiencing violations of the Protocols must make claims within 60 days of the violation. “This settlement claims process is an opportunity for Pinnacle tenants to receive compensation for their years of mistreatment at the hands of Pinnacle, and to show Pinnacle that these tenants will not be intimidated by their landlord’s unlawful tactics,” said Legal Services NYC Manhattan Housing Unit Deputy Director Rosalind Black.

“Tenants should know that the inappropriate behavior of Pinnacle or any other landlord will not be tolerated. The most advantageous and valuable thing a Pinnacle tenant can do is call the Pinnacle Legal Assistance Hotline. Our staff will help determine the tenant’s eligibility for compensation, provide information and advice, and where appropriate, assist with preparing the claim, and represent the tenant at the claims hearing,” said Magda Rosa Rios, Supervising Attorney at The Legal Aid Society.

Tenants who think they may be eligible for compensation should take the following steps:

  • Call the Pinnacle Legal Assistance Hotline at 1-888-736-8115.
  • Call 718-739-6400 (Div. of Homes and Community Renewal) to get your rent history.
  • Gather leases, court papers, photos, letters, and other relevant documents from 2004 to 2010.
  • Think about any repairs needed in the apartment from 2004 to 2010.
  • Think about any other harassment from 2004 to 2010.
  • Keep track of Pinnacle’s compliance with the Protocols.

Eligible tenants will be given appointments to see attorneys or paralegals from Legal Services NYC or The Legal Aid Society to help with their claims. The Pinnacle settlement affects claimants from across the City in Pinnacle’s 200 buildings in Manhattan, 150 in Brooklyn, 100 in Queens, 60 in the Bronx, and 30 in Staten Island.