Source: US State of New York
Zara Realty’s attempts to dismiss AG James’ lawsuit denied
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the following statements in response to a court’s decision to deny Zara Realty’s attempts to dismiss a lawsuit from the Attorney General’s Office over violations of New York’s rent stabilization and tenant harassment laws. In the denial, Justice Kathryn E. Freed of the New York State Supreme Court of New York County ruled that Zara Realty, its owners, and its associated LLCs, can in fact be held liable for these alleged violations.
“This ruling ensures that the owners of Zara Realty can no longer hide behind an LLC, and can be held liable for their blatant pattern of tenant harassment,” Attorney General James said. “We have zero tolerance for landlords who exploit tenants by ignoring rent regulation laws and forcing low-income families to pay excessive fees in exchange for bogus services. I will continue fighting unscrupulous landlords to ensure housing justice for New Yorkers.”
“All New Yorkers deserve a safe, decent and affordable place to call home without fear of intimidation or bullying by their landlord,” said Governor Cuomo. “We will always take action to stop this type of unscrupulous behavior, and anyone found guilty of it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
In March 2019, Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit against Zara Realty for targeting immigrant middle- and low-income tenants in at least 38 rent-stabilized buildings by charging excessive fees, coercing them into signing improper leases, illegally raising rents, and denying tenants’ rights.
The complaint alleges that Zara Realty has spent years evading and circumventing rent stabilization laws in order to scam tenants out of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Zara Realty often illegally demanded and charged new tenants key money, room reservation fees, advanced rent, and excessive security deposits. Tenants who continued to reside in Zara Realty buildings were often illegally charged late fees and fees for services to which they were entitled to for free, such as regular apartment maintenance.
Zara Realty also regularly charged 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 (the family that controls Zara Realty), though the Rent Stabilization Code prohibits landlords from collecting a broker’s fee. In addition, Zara Realty also charged tenants security deposits that equaled 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 alleged that when Zara Realty took over a new building, it changed the building’s front door lock and required that tenants pay fees of up to $200 per key for the new lock. The company also required that tenants submitted to background checks or signed new leases if they wanted a key. The investigation found that some tenants paid more than $11,000 simply to move into their rent-stabilized apartment.