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Infamous landlord Steve Croman illegally de-stabilized Harlem apartments: lawsuit

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A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice gave the lawsuit class action status

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Infamous landlord Steve Croman, who spent time in jail for grand larceny, among other charges, is the center of a lawsuit that was just granted class action status, the New York Daily News first reported.

The complaint, filed by law firm Newman Ferrara and the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), alleges that Croman illegally leased rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem building at market rates while receiving tax benefits from the state.

The lawsuit adds that Croman never gave leases to tenants or registered those units with the state, and that he deregulated 70 percent of the building’s 92 units. HRI now expects rent refunds for affected tenants, as well as new rent stabilized leases.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Franc Perry gave the suit class action status on July 15, and estimated that 100 current and former tenants were affected by Croman’s alleged actions. According to an HRI statement, Perry granted the class action status because tenants share a common goal to ensure that they are charged the legal maximum rent and that the status will avoid having several lawsuits involving the same facts.

In 2016, former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Croman with 20 felonies including falsifying rental income to secure up to $45 million in financing and harassing tenants at rent-regulated apartments. In 2017, Croman pleaded guilty to grand larceny, tax fraud, and related charges, spent eight months in Rikers Island, and was released last June.

In late 2017, Croman agreed to pay a record $8 million to former tenants—the largest ever settlement with an individual landlord, according to Attorney General Letitia James, who recently announced the second round of restitution funds for Croman’s tenants.

“It’s unconscionable for a landlord to unlawfully force a family from its home simply to improve his own bottom-line,” James said in a statement. “Unscrupulous landlords like Steve Croman are not above the law, and we remain committed to holding bad-acting landlords accountable for taking advantage of New Yorkers.”

The suit against Croman comes a week after a group of landlords filed a lawsuit challenging the tenant-friendly rent reforms that were recently passed in Albany, alleging that owners are deprived of their rights to “use, possess, dispose of, and exclude others from their property.”

Correction: This piece originally stated that Croman served time in Rikers Island, but although he was sentenced to go there, he served time in Manhattan Detention Complex instead. Curbed regrets the error.