In a surprise and questionable move, CW Capital let tenants know that the much anticipated rent reduction for loss of essential services, previously announced without conditions, comes with a kicker. Simply by paying their reduced rent, management states, tenants will be waiving their rights to make any Sandy-related claim for any reason now and in the future.
On November 11, 2012, management posted a letter from Andrew MacArthur of CW Capital to residents on the pvcst website announcing that residents would receive a rent abatement due to the loss of certain services as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Mr. MacArthur stated:
“As a demonstration of our commitment, and in appreciation for all that you have been through since last Monday night, I am announcing that anyone who has been without heat, elevator service or electricity will not be charged rent for any day in which they were without one or more of these services.”
(Note: The Tenants Association later convinced management to include loss of cooking gas in the abatement.)
However, residents who opened their rent bill this month may have found —in a “Dear Resident” letter tucked behind the bill — that there are limits to Mr. MacArthur’s and CW Capital’s commitment and appreciation for what residents went through and, in many cases, continue to go through as a result of Hurricane Sandy. After announcing rebates with no conditions attached, the notice slipped in with the rent bill tells residents that they can receive the abatement only if they agree to release CW and management from any and all liability, not just claims for a rent abatement but also for claims residents may have now or in the future against management for loss of property or injuries resulting from Hurricane Sandy. The letter from management is a crass overreach, similar to the surprise that accompanied their announcement — without prior notice — that tenants could retrieve their property from storage lockers only if they executed a similar overly broad release.
These actions by management and CW Capital are nothing more than a variation on the old “bait and switch” particularly because, in initially announcing the rebates, CW Capital , rather than being magnanimous, was merely recognizing the inevitable reality — that a court would order rebates if tenants sued. Now, with this inappropriate tactic, CW is attempting to obtain something they would not have obtained had the matter been litigated — a general release of all claims.
The Tenants Association believes, for various reasons, that management’s effort to turn acceptance of the rebate into a general release that goes beyond abatement claims would fail if litigated. However, the TA cannot provide residents with legal advice and cannot guarantee that any tenants who pay the lesser rent will not be releasing valuable claims. Thus, tenants who believe they may have claims now or in the future relating to property damage or health, apart from service-related claims, should carefully consider whether to accept the rent abatement or pay the full rent and also consult a lawyer.
Lastly, the TA calls upon Mr. MacArthur and CW Capital to demonstrate that they have a real commitment and appreciation for residents of this community and what they have recently gone through and do what is right for them by publicly stating that any release for accepting the rebates will be limited to claims for loss of essential services.