More than a year after buying Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan for a record-breaking $5.4 billion, Tishman Speyer Properties has accused hundreds of rent-stabilized tenants of living somewhere other than their apartments, The Times reports. Residents and their lawyers say that tactic is part of an aggressive attempt to drive out tenants paying lower rents to turn their units into market rate rentals.
Tishman Speyer, which has hired three law firms to work on the cases and a licensed private investigations service to conduct public records searches, says that it is simply trying to rid its buildings of tenants who are abusing the system. Rent-stabilized tenants are allowed to own property elsewhere, as long as they use their apartment as their primary residence.
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village offer only the most recent examples of harassment complaints as scores of rent-regulated buildings have been bought by international developers and private equity companies in recent years. When tenants are forced to give up their leases, vacated apartments can then be rented at market rates. The average monthly rent at Stuyvesant Town in 2006 was $1,241 for rent-stabilized units and $2,767 for market-rate units.
Since December 2006, when Tishman Speyer began the process, about 800 rent-stabilized leases have been denied renewal because the landlord believed the tenants had a primary residence elsewhere, according to the company. More than 4 in 10 of those cases were later dropped, while 3 in 10 ended with tenants giving up their apartments. One tenant, Dolores J. Shapiro, 62, was accused of actually living in Naperville, Ill. Ms. Shapiro says she has never been to Naperville. She hired a lawyer, James B. Fishman, who discovered in an Internet search that a woman with the same name but a different middle initial — Dolores M. Shapiro — appeared to reside at the Naperville address.