Bronxites living in apartments owned by Pinnacle Group may be owed money by their landlord, but few have made an effort to cash in on the situation.
Pinnacle Group, who own about 30,000 apartment units across the city, settled a class action lawsuit in April amid allegations of trying to drive its rent regulated tenants out of their homes to collect higher rents.
The settlement means tenants of Pinnacle’s rent-controlled apartments between July 11, 2004 and April 27, 2010 may be eligible for monetary damages for rent overcharges and harassment, including threats, sending extra bills, and not making repairs.
But although there are 66 Pinnacle buildings in the Bronx containing 6,671 potential claimants, as of October 22, 2014, only 103 claims had been filed, said Magda Rosa Rios with the Legal Aid Society, who will provide free assistance for the tenants making claims.
The deadline for filing claims was recently extended to December 31, said Rios, and the hearings for the claims will begin in January. In the meantime, the Legal Aid Society is working with local elected officials and community organizations to spread the message to Pinnacle tenants.
Senator Gustavo Rivera is trying to get the word out about the settlement by going door to door in Pinnacle owned buildings, talking to tenants and handing out literature.
Most of the tenants he’s spoken with were not aware of the settlement, said Rivera.
Others have told him they threw out the notice they received because they thought it might be a scam.
“They doubted the letter’s legitimacy,” he said.
Rivera visited a building on Lebanon Street Monday, November 3, to try to convince tenants to file claims.
During Senator Rivera’s walkthrough, which the Bronx Times attended, he heard numerous complaints about Pinnacle.
One tenant said that his requests to fix extensive water damage from construction upstairs have been ignored, another said she calls 311 repeatedly because the heat isn’t on and her young children are cold.
The Legal Aid Society has also heard many unfortunate stories from tenants, said Rios, most of which involve a lack of repairs creating terrible living conditions.
“Our experience with Pinnacle is that the tenants were treated horribly,” said Rios.
“They suffered and they deserve to be compensated for what they went through.”
Part of the reason Rivera’s putting so much effort into contacting tenants is because he doesn’t want Pinnacle—or any other dishonorable landlords, he said, to avoid the consequences of its actions.
“It’s obvious there has been some inappropriate behavior from Pinnacle, and they need to be held accountable,” said Rivera.
Rios encouraged tenants of Pinnacle-owned buildings to call the helpline at 1-888-736-8115 soon to determine if they can file a claim.
“We’re here, we’re available, we’re free,” she said.