Rent Gadfly Takes On New York Landlords, One Building at a Time
Aaron Carr organizes class-action lawsuits against landlords he suspects of breaking the law
Sudesh Chohan was thinking of leaving his Flushing, Queens, apartment after 28 years because he couldn’t afford the latest rent increase. His plans changed when the 62-year-old auto mechanic bumped into Aaron Carr.
At Mr. Carr’s suggestion, Mr. Chohan attended a June meeting at a playground where Mr. Carr said the building’s tenants may have a legal case against their landlord, Kaled Management. Mr. Carr contended that Kaled had overcharged them by ignoring their apartments’ rent-stabilized status, which limits price increases.
In August, Kaled offered tenants refunds, including $6,030 for Mr. Chohan. Ed Kalikow, Kaled’s president, said in a statement tenants were “inadvertently” overcharged and that “making residents financially whole was not only legally compliant, but it was the right thing to do.”
At age 29, Mr. Carr has become New York City’s self-appointed enforcer of state rent laws. Last year, he started a nonprofit, Housing Rights Initiative, through which he organizes class-action lawsuits against landlords he suspects of breaking the law.
He hopes to launch 75 to 100 cases over the coming year to enforce a requirement that landlords who collect a popular tax break known as “J-51” limit rent increases on tenants. For years, regulators let thousands of owners ignore that rule, making housing less affordable for renters like Mr. Chohan.