Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tenants Accuse Bldg Manager Of Lease-Purchase Scam After Discovery That Foreclosure Action Predated Rent-To-Own Contracts; Duped Victims Face The Boot

In Rockaway, Queens, the New York Daily News reports:

  • It was supposed to be a dream home by the ocean — but instead turned into a sea of red tape. Management at the Metroplex on the Atlantic, a 15-story luxury apartment complex in Far Rockaway, offered prospective homeowners a rent-to-buy contract.

  • But after a year of plunking down money on above market-rate rent and on improvements for units they hoped to someday own, some would-be homeowners now say they were duped. The building was going into foreclosure, a process that would void their contracts.

  • I was sick to my stomach when I heard,” said single mom and registered nurse Andrea Ahanonu. Residents said they were taken with building manager Jerzy Szymcyzk, a charismatic 62-year-old who would playfully demonstrate headstands for them.

  • Karla Shah said she agreed to pay $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom unit, above market rate in the neighborhood, if it meant soon owning a condo in a building with a sweeping ocean view. Shah, like her neighbors, believed she was signing a contract that would let her to buy the unit in a year. She said she also had a gentleman’s deal with Szymczyk that 3% of the rent would go toward a downpayment. I was so close to getting a loan approved,” said Shah, who teaches English as a second language.

  • But last fall, the tenants were surprised to learn the building was in foreclosure and their contracts were invalid. Furthermore, court papers show the foreclosure began in September 2010, even before Szymcyzk signed up prospective buyers.

  • The tenants had two options: continue paying the pricey rents without a rent-to-own agreement or leave their homes. Many of the tenants have since stopped paying rent and have received eviction notices from the property’s receiver, Walter and Samuels Inc. Residents blame the smooth-talking Szymczyk for pulling the wool over their eyes.

  • But Szymczyk said the tenants didn’t read the contract carefully and denied there was a 3% gentleman’s agreement. He also blamed the foreclosure receiving company for not honoring the rent-to-buy deal. Walter and Samuels did not return a call seeking comment. I didn’t cheat no one,” said Szymcyzk, who has an unrelated labor lawsuit pending against him filed by Metroplex employees.

  • Meanwhile, the building is deteriorating. Its elevators now have four violations with the city Buildings Department, an empty pool sits on the unlocked rooftop and a broken garage door allows anyone to slip in the building unnoticed. I just want this to be over,” said Ahanonu. “I want my money — that’s what I want and then I’m gone.”
Source: Rockaway residents say they lost thousands after rent-to-own building went into foreclosure (Tenants say Metroplex on the Atlantic manager knew their contracts would soon be voided).

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