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Re: Questions about DHCR and landlord practices

Posted by Tami on August 21, 1997 at 15:01:33:

In Reply to: Re: Questions about DHCR and landlord practices posted by TenantNet on August 21, 1997 at 14:17:31:

: : 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.

That was my thinking exactly. It really puts people in a bind; why would you approach the landlord with a bunch of things to take care of before you're in? It's like letting a prospective employer know you're pro-union. We may be vulnerable, but we're not fools.

: : 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.

Not only that, it actually violates the standard lease. A friend pointed this clause out to me that I'd completely missed; you're actually required to send notices to your landlord by certified or registered mail. Not that the landlord cares about violating the lease, of course. For people's own protection, for 55 cents you can get the post office to at least certify that you mailed your letter. After this woman's little directive, I wasn't about to drop another six bucks only to have her refuse my mail.

: : 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
: law.

: : - 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
: Jamaica.

: 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?

Got it. This is a very depressing picture; I was a state employee in another state where this kind of crap would never go on. But thanks for filling me in; you've certainly lowered my expectations dramatically.

: : - 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.

Do I have to file an HP action in order to get a court-ordered inspection? Or is there some other procedure?

: : 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?

Yes; I wanted two years. Despite my complaints, I did get a great deal on this apartment. Although actually, I think I misunderstood something. I thought the 1- and 2-year increases are what kicks in when you renew your lease. Are you saying they're what kicks in when the lease begins? If it's the latter, then I would have saved money, wouldn't I, if I'd taken a one-year lease at 5% and then next year took another one-year lease at 2%. Is that right?

: : 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%?

: yep

I was afraid of this. But couldn't I argue that they had all the information in hand when they prepared the lease, and chose to use the old percentages anyway? (Why they did this I have no idea. Maybe because they didn't think they'd get away with combining 20 + 9, and didn't think just 20 instead of 16 was enough to worry about? Maybe they thought I'd be so grateful for the terrific deal I got that I wouldn't expect anything in the way of services? I can't really figure it out. The whole process of getting into the place was so squirrely--I was practically railroaded into the apartment before I even saw it--and the agent was so bizarre and neurotic, that I kept wondering if there was some snow job going on. Maybe this'll be it.

Thanks for taking the time to provide so much info. I don't think I've ever had to get educated so fast on any issue. It's frustrating, but very, very enlightening.

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