UPDATE: The judge has approved the payments to go out, and according to attorney Alex Schmidt, checks should go out no later than Friday, December 27.
By Sabina Mollot
Oh Santa, I love it!
This holiday season, current and former residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who are members of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” class action suit will have something to celebrate ― checks for their damages from Met Life.
According to tenants’ “Roberts” attorney Alex Schmidt, pending a judge’s approval later this week, the residents who are owed money for rent over-payments from when Met Life was still the owner will see that money by the end of the year. This money stems from the period of January, 2003 and mid-November, 2006, the later date being when Tishman Speyer bought the property.
Though nothing will be finalized until Thursday when the parties meet with the judge, Schmidt, of the firm Wolf Haldenstein, said at this time he doesn’t believe there will be any surprises.
About 12,000 of the 27,500 class members of “Roberts” are owed money from Met Life, and those people will actually get 110 percent of what they overpaid as determined under the complicated damages formula. The reason they’re getting 110 percent is that not everyone who was eligible for damages actually filed for their share of the pool.
Additionally, noted Schmidt, many of those people “are also eligible for later damages from CWCapital.”
As for those current and former tenants, Schmidt said he is hoping for them to be compensated by January or February. The reason those payments are taking longer to process, he said, is that CW believes around 1,100 of those people owe back rent or have nonpayment issues. Those tenants will have a 45-day period to appeal this claim once notified, said Schmidt. Additionally, there is also the matter of around 100 people who filed their paperwork to partake in their share of the damages pool after an extended deadline of May 31, 2013.
“So there is an issue about what to do with those claims,” said Schmidt.
The deadline had been extended from its original date of May 15, 2013 after a push by Schmidt, local elected officials and the ST-PCV Tenants Association to contact class members to let them know that getting damages wasn’t automatic; they’d have to file. Upon being contacted, some of those individuals said they were not even aware they were entitled to money.
Not surprisingly, the push worked, many more tenants filed and this was also a reason for the delay in getting payments out. Attorneys had hoped to get the first round of checks out by October, but the massive amount of paperwork took a while to sort through, said Schmidt.
Damages range per person with some getting a minimal payout of $150 and others getting thousands. One individual who overpaid for a long time, said Schmidt, is entitled to around $200,000.
Out of a $173 million settlement for tenants in apartments that were illegally deregulated by former owners Met Life 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.
The settlement has not been without controversy though since it also led to acting owner CWCapital being allowed to raise rents mid-lease for around 1,100 tenants. (Following an investigation by the attorney general into allegations of tenants being misled by leasing reps, 150 of those tenants received rent rollbacks.)
The settlement, approved by a judge in April, concluded over six years of litigation over the former owners of ST/PCV’s deregulation of apartments while receiving J-51 tax abatements, which are for rent stabilized properties.
Spokespeople for Met Life and CWCapital have not yet responded to a request for comment.