By: Ellen Cans
The owner of Herald Towers, a luxury rental building, is suing tenants for delayed back rent, as evident by multiple lawsuits filed this week in Manhattan state Supreme Court. The lawsuits, which come despite laws protecting tenants, are being filed using a loophole in tenant protection laws.
As reported by Crain’s NY, on Wednesday and Thursday, developer JEMB Realty, which owns the 690-unit building, filed suit against 11 tenants who owe a total of roughly $324,000 in back rent. Suits were originally filed against the tenants back in 2020 through the housing courts, but those cases are still suspended due to the pandemic, according to court documents. New York City landlords are currently not allowed to evict or harass tenants who are delinquent in rental payments due to the pandemic, but they are still permitted to ask for their money. If there are no threats made, it is permitted for landlords to ask for payment, either directly or via a formal lawsuit.
“JEMB Realty has worked hand-in-hand with our residents at Herald Towers, and tenants across our portfolio, who have been badly impacted by the pandemic,” said a JEMB spokesman. “Unfortunately, while the majority of our residents are working in good faith together with us, there are some tenants at Herald Towers who are taking advantage of a difficult moment for many. They have stopped paying rent and repeatedly refused our attempts to work together for a solution. We are working within our legal rights to collect the rent owed to us,” he said.
In New York, eviction and foreclosure proceedings are suspended until Feb. 26, or until at least May 1 if tenants can show financial difficulty or health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s residential landlords claim that they too have being struggling—with nonpaying tenants, record high vacancies, concessions and price declines– while still being expected to pay their property taxes and mortgages.
The 25-story, rental building located in 34th Street off 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, once housed the largest, most luxurious hotel in New York City– the Hotel McAlpin. In 1980, the building was converted into apartments, and in 1999 the property was purchased and upgraded by JEMB, which renamed it Herald Towers. Currently, asking rents for these units range from $2,000 for a studio to $2,700 for a one-bedroom apartment, as per listings on StreetEasy.