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Re: Questions about DHCR and landlord practices

Posted by TenantNet on August 21, 1997 at 14:17:31:

In Reply to: Questions about DHCR and landlord practices posted by Tami on August 21, 1997 at 13:43:31:

: 1. I moved into a rent-stabilized apartment on July 1, and shortly
thereafter I sent the managing agent a list of repair/maintenance items,
including painting. Despite her gratuitously nasty reply, they've taken
care of the more egregious problems (e.g., window glass coming out of
frames, etc.), but they refuse to paint on grounds that I accepted the
apartment "as is."

This is meaningless (as you indicate) as it is the owner's obligation
to provide maintenance. It's a lease issue, warranty of habitability and
doesn't even matter if you're rent stab or not. Painting is also
required by the NYC Housing Maintenance Code (online) every three years
or sooner if it needs it.

: This is, I assume, a reference to the "Condition of
the Apartment" clause in the standard lease, which I understand is
meaningless since it basically conflicts with the requirement to provide
repairs, services, etc. (Various people have told me my mistake was in
not asking for this stuff before moving in, but folks should be aware
that, in theory anyway, it's not supposed to matter.)

If you also demanded it before you moved in, you might not have gotten
the unit.

: Anyway, I sent
another letter (regular mail, since the charming agent informed me, after
receiving my first request, that she won't accept certified or registered
mail), using some legalese.

That's also nonsense. What matters is you sent it. It's your proof.

: This time they just ignored it.


: So I've
sent in my pathetic little complaint of decreased services to DHCR. My
questions are:

DHCR is pathetic, but they've also instituted a policy, which is illegal,
that tenants must require proof (certified letter) that they've notified
their landlord before filing. DHCR is notorious for taking ten years and
then coming up with some excuse to reward your landlord for breaking the

: - I gather that this is supposed to be a total waste of time, and even
DCHR says it takes 12 months. Can someone explain what the process is
supposed to be once you've filed your complaint, and what I can actually
expect to happen?

Yes it's a waste of time. Your complaint should be sent to the landlord
where they will most likely claim a) it's not a service, b) the bad
conditions don't exist, c) you never notified them, d) you denied access
or 20 other things. They are supposed to send you a copy of the owner's
response for reply. They will give him 12 months of extensions and you
get only one extension. They will send you a letter asking if there are
any more unresolved issued and then they will try to dismiss your case.
Eventually they might (if you're lucky) send out an inspector. They might
even rule for you.

You get an order and the landlord files a Petition for Administrative Review
(PAR) and also a Request for Reconsideration. They grant the landlord's request
for the latter, taking you back to square one. You might get another decision
where he then files a PAR. If you're lucky it's upheld in your favor (but not
likely and after five years) and then the owner files an Article 78 in Supreme
Court claiming DHCR's order is "arbitraty, capricous or an abuse of discretion."
If you get this far after about 5 years, you might think you're at the end of
the tunnel. Don't bet on it. Supreme Court could remand the case back to DHCR.

Or DHCR could reopen the case if the landlord claims he wasn't served all the
papers (if a tenant makes this claim DHCR says it doesn't matter and ignores
your request). Your local state assemblymember will be of no help. They might
express concern and do nothing. They might say they fought for you in Albany
and then do nothing. They might even right a letter to DHCR for you, which
DHCR puts in the Assembly Circular File (ACF) on their 4th Floor office in

You go to the tenant group which claims to be "leading the way" (and which
has been bought off by the same Democrat Assemblymembers who do nothing) and
they will tell you they need to organize for 2003. They won't tell you chances
are there will be no more rent stab in 2003.

If you get past Supreme Court, you might even get up to Appellate Division
and the Court of Appeals. By this time you've wasted 8 years and maybe even
spent $10,000 or more on a lawyer. Lets say your order is upheld all the way.

You're ecstatic. You've won. You've beaten the bastard. You fought the good fight.
You have the order in hand and you wait for the painters, and you wait, and you wait.
You call the landlord. You get a nasty response. You write them a certified letter.
They don't respond. You call DHCR and they tell you file a complaint. You tell them
you already have an order; they tell you file with Harassment, or Enforcement or
Non-Compliance. You file and they tell you it's a service issue and you should file a
service complaint but that you must notify the owner first.

Get the picture?

: - Aside from withholding rent or taking the landlord to housing court,
are there any other avenues to pursue here, like through the city
Department of Buildings?

It's not construction

: - If DCHR is the only recourse and it's going to drag on forever, I
may just decide to paint the place myself, but then can I ask for
reimbursement when my case finally gets heard or whatever happens? Or
do I have to just watch the paint peel for the next year or so?

You could withhold rent and go to housing court (but the new rules
require it in escrow) or you can file a HP action. You can also get
a court-ordered inspection.

: - My super tells me the owners are trying to sell the building, which
is why they don't want to put a dime into the place, but he also said
they can't sell if there's a documented violation. Is there any truth
in this? It seems so unlikely.

They can sell.

: 2. When my landlord calculated the rent increase before I moved in,
she included 1/40 or the cost of a new kitchen sink. Based on the
increase, she's claiming she spent $528 on this, which is impossible
for me to believe given the quality of the sink and the workmanship,
etc. I understand that there's some way to find out whether the
landlord's claim is legitimate, but I think it involves actually
challenging the legitimacy of the charge. Can someone fill me in on this?

You would file an overcharge complaint with DHCR (see above) The landlord
supposedly would then be required to submit proof of the cost.

: 3. My lease is effective July 1 of this year, and my landlord used the
increase that was in effect before the big Pataki giveaway: 9% + 7%.

That's for two years -- did they offer you one year?

Attached to the lease was a rider, dated June 24, which included
something like the following (I don't have it in front of me, but
here's the basic idea): if the Rent Guidelines Board hadn't set new
increases by the date of execution of the lease, these would be
incorporated into the rent; and if the Board set a later date for
implementing the new increases, these would be applied at that later

This is standard but it's usually for leases offered in the summer that
take effect after October 1 when new guidelines take effect.

: This doesn't make too much sense to me, and since, if I'm
not mistaken, the 20% deal was set on June 19 and the Board met
June 23, I think I'm safe. But if that 20% is retroactive to
June 15, is it possible that my landlord could try to retroactively
change the 16% to 29%?


: Thanks in advance.

no prob

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