NEW YORK: Before the start of each month, Anh-Thu Nguyen and her two roommates send rental checks to their landlord. A few days later, the checks are mailed back.
The bizarre ritual began soon after the March 2021 purchase of Nguyen’s Brooklyn building by a shadowy real estate firm called Greenbrook Partners, which told residents they had to leave by June 30.
Some neighbors moved out, but Nguyen and tenants from four other units sued the financially connected Greenbrook, one of several investor-backed rental housing firms to draw scrutiny in Washington.
“We have to fight back,” said Nguyen, who has helped organize tenants in other buildings that belong to Greenbrook, which has more than 150 properties in Brooklyn and Queens, most bought during the pandemic.
“This has been my home for 13 plus years. It’s a wonderful community and I want to stay here… it’s also the right thing to do,” said Nguyen, 39, a trained attorney who works on labor organizing for an NGO.
Nguyen and other activists back a pending tenant protection bill in the New York state legislature. The battle comes as rising rent adds to today’s historic inflation surge, with horror stories abounding of landlords in the unregulated portion of New York’s rental market seeking increases of 30 percent or higher.
“The market has bounced back, and that has led to rent increases and lease renewals that are really burdensome for tenants,” said Charles McNally, director of external affairs at the Furman Center, a New York University urban policy research organization.
“It’s a really difficult market for renters, and the inflationary pressures for owners are real as well.”