The Attorney General of New York has canceled and recovered more than $265,000 in “illegal” debt and imposed a fine of $50,000 as part of an investigation into a company that provides off-campus housing to students attending SUNY Buffalo State College.
Under the terms of the settlement, $200,000 of debt will be canceled and nearly $66,000 will be recovered and returned to individuals who signed leases for the apartments. The company, Monarch 716, will also pay a civil fine of $50,000.
Monarch 716 was accused of coaxing and cajoling students into signing leases for housing, even though it did not determine if the students met the company’s qualifications, then denied students access to housing before attempting to collect on the unpaid leases. If the debts were not paid, they were referred to debt collectors for collection, according to the Attorney General’s office. The investigation also uncovered that the company was charging excessive rent and fees. For example, the company told students they could get out of their lease if they found someone else to take it over. When that happened, the company charged the students a $300 delegation fee.
“Preying on students with illegal housing schemes is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York, in a statement. “Monarch 716 engaged in serious predatory behavior that violated tenants’ rights and made students, who were just starting out their lives, feel threatened. Today’s agreement will help students impacted by Monarch 716 get their lives back in order without having thousands of dollars of debt looming over their heads. My office is committed to standing up to predatory landlords and protecting students.”