By Sabina Mollot
When tenants attorney Alex Schmidt announced last month that current and former residents of Stuyvesant Town who’d overpaid on their rent would get a total of $68.75 million in damages, it was cheered as the biggest tenant settlement in history.
Therefore, three weeks later, Schmidt said he was shocked — and confused — to discover that thousands of eligible recipients of damages from the “Roberts” settlement are not filing to claim their money.
As of Tuesday, there were around 5,400 current tenants who haven’t filed and 18,000 former tenants who haven’t filed. The deadline for them to do so is May 15. After that, those who have filed will be paid up to 110 percent of their expected cut, but then the remaining funds will go back to CWCapital and Met Life.
“We don’t know if they threw out their (claim papers) or just forgot,” said Schmidt, of the firm Wolf Haldenstein. “It could be that they’re confused. So we’d like to get the word out.”
He added that, upon discovering a class action member who was entitled to thousands, but hadn’t filed, attorneys called him to ask why he hadn’t.
“He said, ‘My rent was lowered three years ago so I figured that’s all I was entitled to.’”
There are over 27,000 class action members of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” suit, which established that apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were illegally deregulated.
The settlement, in addition to damages, totals an estimated $173.25 million when past rent savings from rents lowered a couple of years ago are factored in.
As for the damages, they range from $150 for tenants who never overpaid or left ST/PCV when their apartments went to market rate, to over $200,000. That particular payout went to someone who “vastly overpaid for many years,” said Schmidt.
If all eligible class members file their claims, they will receive 70 percent of what they overpaid, with the rest going towards legal fees and other costs. However, Schmidt said at this point, it’s likely that those tenants will get the maximum allowed amount —110 percent — because there will be enough money left in the pot due to people who aren’t filing.
To remind those who haven’t yet filed, Wolf Haldenstein will be sending out postcards to class members this week and conducting a phone bank to call former residents.
Schmidt said he thought the phone bank was necessary because some people might dismiss the mailed notices as junk mail.
“People get so much junk mail, they’re trained not to trust something that says, ‘You’re owed money,’” said Schmidt, “but the money is sitting there waiting for them. All they have to do is fill out some paperwork.”
The Tenants Association will also be trying to get the word out by conducting a door drop at apartments where class members live.
Council Member Dan Garodnick, who’ll be helping out with the door drop on Thursday, said, “We’re going to try to make sure people know that the deadline is fast approaching. People shouldn’t lose out just because they didn’t realize there’s some paperwork to do.”
Class members who’ve lost their paperwork or never got it can get forms through the Berdon Claims Administration, which can be reached at (800) 766-3330.
This article has been updated from an earlier version on the Town-Village Blog published last Thursday to add information about the number of class members and the door drop and phone banking.