By Sabina Mollot
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents who are due rent overcharge damages as a result of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit won’t be getting their money as soon as expected.
According to the “Roberts” attorney for tenants, Alex Schmidt, while he’d initially aimed to get checks sent to tenants by October, attorneys are now hoping that some money will be distributed later this year and the rest by the first quarter of 2014.
The delay in payments was first reported in Crain’s on Friday. John Marsh, president of the ST-PCV Tenants Association, had also given neighbors a heads up on Wednesday on the association’s Facebook page.
However, both Schmidt and a rep for CWCapital insisted that the October date had never been set in stone; it’s just what the parties had been shooting for. Schmidt said the reason “Roberts” plaintiffs haven’t been paid yet is that the paperwork for the plaintiffs (of which there are 27,500) is taking a longer time to sort through than expected, with many parties only entitled to minimal damages. (Damages range from $150 to $200,000.)
Additionally, at this time, attorneys are also waiting for CW to turn over data regarding “Roberts” class members who the special servicer believes owe back rent money. Under the settlement, CW is entitled to any rent owed and therefore that affects how the individual would be paid.
Schmidt said attorneys are hoping to get money owed by MetLife to tenants by the end of the year, then focus on getting people paid who are not in arrears in rent, and then the people who CW says do owe rent.
Those individuals “would then have 45 days to say whether or not they disagree,” said Schmidt, but first the special servicer of the property has to calculate how much it believes it is owed. “It’s unfortunately very complicated,” said Schmidt.
Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CW, added, “A timeframe for payments was never established. That said, we hope that tenants are paid as soon as possible, but it is a lengthy administrative process given the number of claimants.”
Council Member Dan Garodnick, who is a “Roberts” class member, said the money should be repaid to tenants “as quickly as possible.”
He added that CW “should be as quick to give it back as they are to take it.”
Out of a $173 million settlement for tenants in apartments that were illegally deregulated by former owners MetLife and Tishman Speyer, close to $69 million will be paid out to tenants. The rest of the money is in the form of rent savings.
In other “Roberts” related news, over 150 tenants who got mid-lease increases have gotten rent rollbacks, Garodnick said.
In June, following an investigation by the attorney general into the mid-lease increases issued to around 1,100 residents of ST/PCV, the A.G. and CWCapital reached a deal to give rent rollbacks to any tenant who’d been misled into thinking there would be no mid-lease hikes.
The investigation came as a result of Garodnick alerting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that he’d heard from residents who claimed they were assured by leasing agents that getting a mid-lease increase was highly unlikely, only to then get socked with an increase. Those tenants were then asked by the A.G. to sign affidavits describing how they were misled about the increases and in June, Garodnick said he knew of about 40 people who were affected. CWCapital said at the time that after its own “exhaustive effort” to find the affected parties, the special servicer had only heard from around 10. However, Garodnick said he has since learned about a total of 152 people who were awarded rent rollbacks.
The rent increases were issued by CW in May as a result of the “Roberts” settlement. The increases went as high as over $2,000, though most affected tenants reported getting hikes that were in the hundreds, and tenants were given six weeks to decide whether to renew their leases or leave. Another two hundred tenants got rent reductions.