Zara Reality is a staple of Jamaica, Queens, owning 38 buildings with over 2,500 rent stabilized apartments. Zara is also a lightening rod for attention, but not for the right reasons. As Jamaica slowly changes from an affordable bastion into a neighborhood of an expanding vertical footprint, rising rents and property values are becoming an increasing concern. Making life miserable for tenants usually accompanies expanding rents, and is a main accusation in a lawsuit announced today by the New York State Attorney General and DHCR’s Tenant Protection Unit.
The lawsuit paints Zara Realty as bad players in the community. Like, really bad. According to the lawsuit, which was filed today in New York County Supreme Court, makes serious allegations, stating that Zara “…prey upon their tenants, many of whom have limited proficiency in reading and writing in English, relentlessly forcing them to acquiesce to oppressive and illegal fees, pay rents in excess of their legal regulated rents, and consent to illegal lease terms…”
Zara seems to follow the “death by a thousand cuts” philosophy when it comes to property management. While some owners raise the rent by hundreds or thousands of dollars, Zara seems to like sticking tenants with an illegal fee here, another illegal fee there. According to the lawsuit, Zara gives “…tenants renewal leases with rent increases that are illegally adjusted retroactively based on expired RGB orders.” Also, the lawsuit alleges Zara required tenants to “…sign a vacancy lease to add the tenant’s spouse despite HCR’s clear policy that a spouse may be added to an existing lease without charge.” Further, the lawsuit alleges that Zara charged tenants up to $200 for additional keys despite HCR policy allowing tenants access to free duplicate keys.
And those brief words above are just the tip of the iceberg. Even if just half the accusations can be proven, Zara Realty’s reputation has been sunk. Considering that Zara Realty is an organization with strong ties to the immigrant community, the fact that so many tenants from overseas are suffering such injustices creates a dubious environment for Zara’s credibility.