Croman Tenants Toolkit

The purpose of this document is to create a set of standards and protocols to help Croman tenants and former tenants understand their rights and advocate for themselves to resolve ongoing issues.

Note that this document was put together by tenants and tenant advocates and should not be considered legal advice

To return to the Home page of the website click: StopCromanCoalition.org

Table of Contents    (Click on the tabs above to select the information for each topic)

















Getting Repairs Done

Reporting a Repair:

  1. Make a list of what repairs are necessary in your apartment and building. A repair checklist is included at the end of this toolkit to help you make a thorough list.

  2. Take photos to document the issues.

  3. Contact your superintendent, property manager, and the tenant liaison representative for your building. It is best to do this contact through email or certified mail. Sample email templates are included at the end of this packet.

    1. If you do not know who your tenant liaison is you can email Felipe Olmeta, felipe@tenantliaisons.com, with your building address to find out

  4. In your email or letter, suggest dates when they will be able to access your apartment for inspection and to do the repairs. If possible, give a few potential dates for access.

Escalating Your Complaint:

If you do not receive a response, you can escalate your complaint by contacting the following people:

Higher-Ups at New York City Management:

Third-Party Monitor (responsible for making surethe Consent Decree is followed and reporting issues to the Attorney General):

Tenant Liaison Supervisor (overseeing the Tenant Liaisons who are supposed to facilitate repairs):

Attorney General:

Getting a Violation Issued:

If your complaint to management is not addressed in a timely manner, you should CALL 311 and make a complaint with the city about a repair issue in your apartment or building. Make sure you write down the complaint number they give you. You can also submit a 311 complaint online at https://portal.311.nyc.gov/ or through the 311 app.The city will send an inspector to visit you apartment to inspect and issue a violation. You can make the complaints anonymously if it is a building wide issue or you are worried about retaliation, but it is more effective in getting a violation issued if you share your contact information. If you want to get a violation issued it is more effective if you put your apartment number. If the landlord or anyone affiliated with the landlord shows up with the city inspector, you should ask them to wait outside the apartment during the inspection.

Reporting repairs and making sure that violations are issued is important, particularly because one of the factors that determines whether Croman can take buildings back from New York City Management is the number of violations on file with Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Department of Buildings (DOB).

Contacting Your Elected Officials:

Elected officials offices can be a great resource, and you should let their office know about what is going on if there are serious issues that are not addressed. Once you have a complaint number from calling 311, you can contact your local City Council Member or State Senator. They can help follow up on your complaint and make arrangements for an inspector to come see the conditions in your building or apartment.

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can find out at the following website: http://www.mygovnyc.org/

Initiating an HP Action in Housing Court:

If the landlord is unresponsive to repairs, you can initiate an HP Action in Housing Court to force your landlord to do the repairs. Contact your local tenants' rights organization for assistance and to see if you are eligible for free legal representation. See the end of this packet for a comprehensive list of organizations that can assist you.

You can also find out more information about HP Actions here: http://housingcourtanswers.org/what-is-an-hp-action/

Creating a Paper Trail

Regardless of the issue you are dealing with,the best way to protect yourself is to report everything in writing and keep detailed records. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take photos of issues reported.

    1. Keep yourself organized by creating an album on your phone or computer.

  2. Start a designated journal to keep track of all your interactions with your landlord. Make sure you record the date, time, who you interacted with, and what they said.

  3. Follow up phone and in person conversations with an email recapping what was discussed and any concerns.

    1. Include photos when appropriate

    2. Copy the email addresses from the contact list on the first page on all emails to NYC Management. It is especially important to include the Third-Party Monitor and the Attorney General.

    3. Sample email templates are provided at the end of this packet.

    4. You can create an email folder to keep your emails to management organized.

  4. After work is done in your apartment, send a recap email with what was done, any issues you encountered, and what work still remains. Take "before" and "after" photos of the work. If there was any substandard work done that may need to be re-done, make sure you document and mention that. You can also call 311 and have the city come to inspect any work that you think was done improperly.



















Knowing Your Rights

  1. Turnaround time

    1. The Consent Decree states that Management must commence work to correct immediately hazardous apartment repairs within 24 hours of receipt of notice. Management must commence work to correct regular repairs within 72 hours of receipt of notice of the repair.

    2. Management has stated that for jobs that require licensed and/or specialized repair persons, management will seek two bifds and will request that the vendor present a proposal within 10 days.

  2. Work plans

    1. For larger jobs, management has stated that they will distribute a memo to tenants 2-5 business days before the scheduled work commencement date with the proposed work, the schedule of the work, the dates that the work will be performed, and the name of the contractor/contracting company who will be performing the work. You can request this memo for jobs where it is necessary.

  3. Licenses and Work Permits

    1. Licenses and permits are required for most jobs that involve plumbing, electrical work, or changing the layout of the apartment and/or building.

    2. Ask for licenses. Your tenant liaison may be able to assist with getting a copy of the license that is on file at the management's office.

    3. You can refuse to give access to your apartment if management refuses to produce required licenses and/or permits.

    4. If management continues work without a permit, you can call 311 and request that a Stop Work Order be issued. If they continue doing the construction after the Stop Work Order is issued, you should call 311 to report a violation of the Stop Work Order.

  4. Notice before Accessing Apartment

    1. You have the right to receive written notice at least 24 hours in advance of Management accessing your apartment, unless there is an emergency or a governmental agency is present to inspect.

    2. If management does not provide written notice at least 24 hours in advance and it is not an emergency, you can refuse access to your apartment.

    3. You have the right to refuse access to your apartment except for bona fide reason. The Consent Decree describes a "bona fide reason" as access to cure violations, access for repairs, access for emergency inspections, access for building wide construction or repairs, and access for prospective leasing of your unit after you have indicated that you are not going to renew your lease. In these situations, except in cases of emergency you have the right to negotiate a day that works for you for access. However, you should be aware that if you make a complaint and then do not give access for repairs, you can be taken to court for refusing to give access.

    4. You can request that the Tenant Liaison be present during any work that is being done.

    5. If your apartment is being inspected by an inspector from a city agency (Housing Preservation and Development or the Department of Buildings) and a representative of the landlord shows up,you do not have to let the representative of the landlord into the apartment along with the inspector.

  5. Abatements

    1. According to the Consent Decree, Management must issue an abatement for rent-regulated tenants in the following amounts:

      1. When there is a deprivation of an essential service (outline what this is): 25% off of your monthly rent when there is a deprivation of an essential service for more than 48 hours, 50% off of your monthly rent when there is a deprivation of an essential service for more than three months.

      2. 25% off of your monthly rent when there is major construction in the building

  6. Protection from dust and debris

    1. The Consent Decree states that Management will ensure that dust mitigation plans are in place and followed and that all work sites are cleaned daily, and will protect tenants' apartments and their belongings from dust and debris.

  7. If they break something, you should be reimbursed.









Leasing & Billing Issues

Rent Stabilized Tenants

 

Tenants in Unregulated Apartments

 

Security Deposits


Paying Your Rent

Safety Concerns

Here are some common safety concerns in Croman Buildings:
































Restitution Fund

Overview and Eligibility

The Consent Decree required that Croman pay $8 million in four equal installments into the Croman Tenant Restitution Fund. Tenants who occupied a Rent-Regulated unit between July 1, 2011 and December 20, 2017. Tenants who are disputing the status of their apartment may be eligible as well. Forms to apply can be found on the website of the Claims Administrator (below).

 

Payment Schedule

According to the Consent Decree, Croman will pay into the fund according to the following schedule:

The funds will be distributed equally between the tenants who apply (therefore, every round of payment may not be the same if additional tenants are found eligible). The first round of checks from the restitution fund were sent in December 2018. The second round of checks from the restitution fund were sent in October 2019.


Additional questions about the Restitution Fund should be directed to the agency which is managing the fund. The contact information is below:

Website: http://cromanrestitutionfund.com/


Mailing Address: Croman Tenant Restitution Fund     c/o JND Legal Administration     P.O. Box 91349     Seattle, WA  98111 Phone Number: 1-833-898-4009 (Dial 7 to speak with a real person) Email: info@cromanrestitutionfund.com















Illegal Use of Apartments (Airbnb, Prostitution, Party Rentals)

Many tenants have reported that illegal short-term rentals are being run in their buildings.

What is an Illegal Short-Term Rental?

An illegal short-term rental means that apartments are being rented out for less than 30 days and the tenant is not staying in the apartment. AirBNB is one of the biggest platforms for illegal short-term rentals, but other websites are commonly used as well. While common, in NYC it is not legal for renters to sublease their entire apartments for less than 30 days, or for landlords to sublease apartments for less than 30 days.

 

As a neighbor, it can be frustrating and may feel unsafe to have a high turnover of unknown guests in the building. It can cause extra noise or trash and cleaning materials to be left around the building. Additionally, it is unsafe for guests, because the apartments they are staying in may not be set up to host multiple people on a short-term basis, or do not have the proper fire safety systems or number of exits. Additionally, short-term rentals change the character of neighborhoods and take away affordable housing.

 

The NYC Office of Special Enforcement is in charge of monitoring and dealing with short-term rentals. You can visit their website to learn more or submit a complaint: http://nyc.gov/stayintheknow

What can I do to stop this if it is happening in my building?

 
  1. If you are comfortable, speak with the guests directly. Be friendly and gather as much information as you can. You’d be surprised how much guests are willing to share in a casual conversation.

    1. Apartment you are staying in
    2. Arrival/Departure times
    3. Who lives there
    4. Where they found listing

  2. Inform your landlord in writing of your suspicion of a short-term rental.
  3.  
  4. You should report any suspicion of short-term rentals to the City by calling 311. You can call 311 and say you want to report an illegal “short-term rental” to be directed to the right person to make your complaint. You can also go to the website of the Office of Special Enforcement to submit a complaint directly: http://nyc.gov/stayintheknow

    1. When you call, it is good to have as much information as possible, including which apartment, when the guests are usually there

    2. If you know the platform that was used for booking or can find the listing, this information can be helpful as well.

  5. The Office of Special Enforcement will send a team to the building to inspect. They have to find a guest in the apartment in order to issue a violation, which is why it is important to give information about when guests are usually there. Violations are generally issued based on the apartment not being up to fire code.
  6.  
  7. If you are able to find a listing for your building online, forward it to the Office of Special Enforcement or report it by calling 311.
  8.  
  9. Once a violation has been issued, let the landlord know. Ultimately, it is up to the landlord to stop the illegal short-term rentals and resolve the violation.
 















Overcharges and Illegal Deregulation of Apartments

Many market-rate tenants move into unregulated apartments and are paying high rents. They may not know that their apartment used to be rent stabilized, that it has been taken out of the rent stabilization system illegally, and that they could be paying a much lower rent and get money back for the rent they overpaid. If your landlord intentionally overcharged you, you can receive back 3 times the money that you overpaid.

 

The first step to figuring this out is to request your rental history from Housing and Community Renewal, the state agency which oversees rent regulation. This is a document which shows the past rents for your apartment and can be used to help determine if your apartment was deregulated legally or not.

 

How to Access Your Rent History:

 

Once you receive your rent history, contact a tenants’ rights organization or visit a free legal history to have your rent history reviewed and discuss next steps

If you are a rent stabilized tenant who believes your rent has been illegally increased, you should also request your rent history and, if necessary, file an overcharge complaint.

 

The Housing Rights Initiative works with groups of tenants who have been overcharged to file lawsuits. (Not sure of their contact info).

 



















Keeping Your Neighbors Informed

Tenants are most successful in fighting back and getting repairs done when they unite in a Tenants’ Association! Even if you have high turnover in the building, you should talk with your neighbors about the problems in the building and organize a meeting. Issues like illegal short-term rentals or potential deregulation of apartments can be used to bring market-rate tenants into the Association. You can contact your local tenants’ rights organization for assistance in organizing a Tenants’ Association.

 

The Stop Croman Coalition played an instrumental role in putting Croman in jail and pushing the Attorney General to pursue the case against Croman. The Stop Croman Coalition continues to organize tenants in Croman buildings to ensure that the temporary management company is not violating tenants’ rights and Croman is not violating the Consent Decree. You can learn more at https://stopcromancoalition.org/.




























Bad Actors

There are several individuals who tenants should keep an eye out for:

  

Steve Croman: Croman is allowed to visit buildings, and has been frequently sighted around his buildings since he was released from jail. However, he is not permitted to interact with rent-regulated tenants.

 

Falconite is not permitted to contact rent-regulated tenants.

Other people of concern: if you see their name on documents or see them, contact the Attorney General with the details.

Other people to look out for:























Attachments:

Croman Tenant Complaint Form    (May be printed, filled out, scanned,and sent as an attachment to the appropriate agency; We are info@stopcromancoalition.org)

Rough Version of entire Toolkit for Print-outs

NOTE: There will be more attachments to come, such as: Tenant Resource List, Repair Letter Template and other form templates, and a list of Tenant Attorneys.