Attorney General James Cancels Over $200,000 in Illegal Housing Debt, Recoups $65,000 More for Buffalo State Students Deceived by Private Student Housing Provider

Monarch 716 Denied Students Housing Then Claimed They Owed
Thousands in Rent, Often Referring Students to Debt Collectors

OAG Investigation Finds Monarch 716 Violated Tenants’ Rights Laws,
Engaged in Predatory Behavior Towards Students

BUFFALO – New York Attorney General Letitia James today cancelled more than $200,000 in illegal housing debt and recouped another $65,000 in restitution for SUNY Buffalo State College students as part of an agreement with an off-campus private student housing provider that deceived hundreds of students since 2019. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Monarch 716 routinely coaxed students into signing leases, then demanded thousands of dollars in rent while denying students access to those apartments.

“Preying on students with illegal housing schemes is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James. “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.”

Monarch 716, also known as Monarch, is a private, off-campus student housing provider — owned by 100 Forest Ave LLC and managed by XFD Real Estate Partners — that primarily markets to students at SUNY Buffalo State College. Attorney General James opened an investigation into Monarch, in September 2020, that found that the company routinely collected interested students’ information, cajoled them into signing leases even though they did not first determine if they met Monarch’s qualifications (and often later determined that they did not qualify), denied students access to housing, and finally claimed students owed thousands in rent. Monarch would then often refer students to debt collectors.

The OAG investigation also revealed that the private student housing provider illegally charged students excess rent and fees. On multiple occasions, Monarch told students they could get out of their lease if they found another student to take it over, but then unlawfully charged a $300 “delegation” fee. Additionally, the company would sometimes allow students to prepay rent in advance if they believed they did not meet certain qualification criteria, a violation of state rent laws. International students were also allowed to prepay rent, sometimes several months’ worth or the entire term of the rental agreement. Moreover, Monarch charged certain students excessive late fees for each month of rent that was not paid in a timely manner and posted red notices on their doors.

Today’s agreement cancels over $200,000 in improper debt for dozens of students, recovers $65,958.45 in restitution for hundreds more, and imposes a $50,000 civil penalty on Monarch. Further, the agreement prohibits Monarch from repeating any of its predatory practices in the future.

“I want to thank Attorney General James and her office for holding Monarch 716 accountable and cancelling the thousands of dollars in debt the company tried to illegally saddle me with,” said Maria Reid, an impacted SUNY Buffalo State College student. “Monarch 716 deceived me and so many others while threatening to send us to debt collectors and ruining our credit. After viewing a Monarch 716 apartment, the company claimed I owed thousands of dollars without ever doing its due diligence to see if I even qualified for the apartment. I never lived in a Monarch 716 apartment for even a day, yet was told I needed to pay thousands. I’m glad that this company will be blocked from harming another student because of the attorney general’s work.”

This case was handled by Deputy Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Buffalo Regional Office Christopher L. Boyd, with assistance from Senior Consumer Fraud Representative Karen Davis and Investigator Jennifer Terranova. The Buffalo Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General in Charge Michael Russo and is a part of the Division of Regional Affairs. The Division of Regional Affairs is led by Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.