Astoria tenants mount class action lawsuit against landlord trying to dismantle new rent control legislation

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A pair of Astoria tenants just won a strategic battle in a lawsuit against one of three landlord groups challenging the state’s newly strengthened rent laws. 

A Queens State Supreme Court Judge has granted a class action lawsuit that will allow more than 50 identified members to recover rent overcharges allegedly collected by defendant Vermyck LLC.

The two tenants filed a suit in 2018 that alleges the landlord fraudulently deregulated many or all the apartments in their building, while simultaneously receiving J-51 benefits, a property tax exemption for renovations. Now the lawsuit could potentially impact more than 100 current and other “similarly situated” tenants of Vermyck’s building at 28-30 34th St., according to the Housing Rights Initiative, a legal support group whose investigation led to the lawsuit.

In the time elapsed since the original lawsuit against the landlord, Vermyck’s management companies joined two other landlords to file a lawsuit of its own against New York City and the Rent Guidelines Board that claims measures included in the rent control legislation that the state passed in June violate the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s highly ironic that a landlord accused of flouting the old rent laws (Vermyck LLC) is now suing to challenge the new ones,” said Aaron Carr, founder of HRI. “This victory couldn’t be more timely.” 

Seven of the 57 pending class action lawsuits HRI generated have been granted class-certification status, Carr said. Last week, a judge granted a motion allowing more than 100 East Harlem tenants to sue landlord Steven Croman for similar charges of allegedly overcharging and not offering rent-stabilized leases.

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