Tenants in Kushner-owned buildings allege harassment--here's what to do if you're in the same boat

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Jared Kushner has, like his father-in-law Donald Trump, made his mark on New York City real estate: As CEO of Kushner Companies, he has spent hundreds of millions developing a robust portfolio, explains Gothamist, which has made him the second-biggest landlord in the East Village.

In 2013, through management company Westminster Management, Kushner Companies acquired four East Village buildings. Now, according to DNAInfo, rent-stabilized tenants in some of those properties claim that since the purchase, they've been harassed into moving out. One resident told the publication that a renovation in a neighboring apartment led to thousands of dollars of damages in her own, for which Westminster failed to compensate her, and when she withheld her rent in response, the management company sued.

Another resident said he had to leave his home because the construction noise from renovations was unbearable, and a third reported having to contend with gas leaks, sewage, and dust, all resulting from construction. 

What these tenants are alleging—that by deliberately making their lives uncomfortable, their landlord is attempting to push them out so he can rent their units at the market rate—is unfortunately not an unusual tactic. Previously, we reported on the Toledano Tenants Coalition, another group of East Village renters, who joined forces when they, too, felt pressured by their landlord to vacate their stabilized apartments. 

If what these tenants allege is true, then the Kushner Companies' actions may be illegal. The New York City Bar explains that all residents have the right to a clean, safe, and liveable home; should a landlord fail to provide this, you can provide written documentation of the problem to them, and if the situation isn't remedied, withhold rent. However, the NYC Bar cautions, the landlord can then sue for non-payment of rent—in which case you can counter-sue. 

Furthermore, if you have to leave because of renovations underway elsewhere in your building, this is considered a "constructive eviction." As Brick explored in a previous article about breaking yout lease, under these circumstances, you are no longer obligated to pay rent. You could also opt to take your landlord to housing court. 

Of course, many renters do not want to get involved in a costly web of litigation, and may opt to move out instead. The NYC Bar notes that if your apartment becomes uninhabitable—and you're not at fault—you can cancel the lease with only three days' notice. 

But this may be exactly what your landlord was hoping for—and besides, what New Yorker in their right mind wants to give up a rent-stabilized apartment? If you'd rather stay and fight, you do have a few options. First, to protect yourself and your possessions, it's a smart idea to buy renter's insurance; as our experts point out, you can recoup the cost of damaged property this way. 

You can also follow the Toledano tenants' lead and form an association with your neighbors; there's strength in numbers, and it's harder for a landlord to ignore the concerns of dozens of people.

So, ready to take the next step and band together? Check out the Met Council's guide to forming a tenants association. 


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