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6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

NYC Rent Regulation: Rent Control/Rent Stabilized, DHCR Practice/Procedures

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6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

Postby bucketbutt » Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:11 pm

Hi everyone!

Does anyone have any experience with a building that fits the criteria for being rent-stabilized (6 unit built in 1906) that has NO record with the DHCR? NONE at all. We called and they were dumbfounded and recommended we file a case of over-payment.

The city filed a Vacate Order in 1986. The building was renovated in 2013, but it appears only $142,500.00 was spent. They absolutely did not change 75% of the structure.

Our building has a lawyer and tenant rep and they have never heard of a building like ours having NO record with the DHCR.

Hoping someone here has an idea what is going on!
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Re: 6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:31 pm

First off, buildings are not RS. Individual units may be.

I'm sure there are units that were never registered (as RS), but they were supposed to be registered since 1984. Did you ask for a rent history from DHCR? Have you asked for the Rent Control Cards?

Going back, you can get the Rent Control "I-cards" from HPD.
https://hpdonline.hpdnyc.org/HPDonline/ ... dress.aspx
It helps to have the block/lot number of the building, but you can do it by address.

Understand the RC cards from DHCR are different from the RC cards from HPD. Try to get both.

There is normally a 6 year look back as per any claim of overcharges, but the question of RS status, that should not be subject to any statute of limitations.

I would also start a detailed investigations as to the history with Dept. of Buildings and the Dept. of Finance. You never know what you will find.

As to the vacate order and renovation, well that's something else. You should completely gather any and all records from the Dept. of Buildings. I would contact a forensic architect for the research. Otherwise be prepare to spend a lot of time looking for something and you might not be aware of what you are looking for. You need to find out the reason for the vacate order, and if the conditions were repaired. If you do work with an architect, do so quietly and don't let the LL know you are looking around. You will want access to as much of the building as you can.

Make sure your attorney is a well-known tenant attorney and not someone who just has an office down the street.
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Re: 6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

Postby bucketbutt » Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:26 pm

Thank you for replying!

Understood about the building vs units-- 2 units, including my own, requested rental history with the DHCR and they have no record. We have a robust tenant union and one of my neighbors called the DHCR and they tried a lot of different options to try to find a record. Unclear if they looked in to every unit on the call.

Our lawyer is a tenant lawyer from Communities Resist. We've filled out authorizations for them to communicate with the DHCR on our behalf.

I've located the "I-cards" but I don't know how to interpret them. The I-cards have information going back to 1917, and it says "Classification: REG 326446" but, to be fair, I have no idea how to interpret the information. Our building doesn't have a Certificate of Occupancy.

That's a really good suggestion about the forensic architect!

We're embedded in our community so we've spoken to our neighbors and more than one has said that they knew people in the building before it was renovated in 2013 and that it was rent-stabilized. I was the first tenant to move in the building at the time, and it's pretty obvious that they did not change much of the building at that time. It DOES look as if they changed the interior layout of the apartments. It's unclear if people were living here between 1986 and 2005- the only record following the Vacate Order (foreclosure) is a deed change. There are no work orders prior to 2011 when the latest building owners filed for work approval.

Our entire building has been on rent strike since May 01- our current plan is to wait for our landlords to sue us for holdover/nonpayment cases (we are each in different arrangements with our leases/month-to-month) and use illegal destabilization as a defense.
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Re: 6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:35 am

The entire registration system is based on LLs being expected to comply. Many don't and DHCR will not do anything unless there's a complaint ... and even then, they often drag their feet or make excuses.

Buildings and units were first required to register in 1984 with annual updates for apartments. It's entirely possible the LL never registered. Do a search with ACRIS (Dept of Finance) and see how long the LL has owned the building.

We're not familiar with Communities Resist. I looked at their Facebook page. I can't say for certain, but there are often groups like this that are not really tenant groups even though they do provide some degree of tenant help. Their primary focus could be on other issues.

Some groups are tied into groups like Working Families, NY Communities for Change, Housing Justice for All ... all of which, in our opinion, are as bad as landlords and have sold tenants out. You have to see where the funding comes from, and to what politicians they might be beholden. I'm not suggesting anything about your group, just that we see a lot of groups, some with questionable ties, and even then, they on occasion do good work.

From the HPD website (which is always very slow)

The Department of Housing and Buildings was an agency of the City of New York responsible for building inspections and maintaining occupancy records. The agency maintained historical occupancy records called Initial Inspection cards (more commonly referred to as 'I-cards') which captured occupancy and arrangement information based on the initial inspection of the property by the agency and any subsequent applications filed with that agency during the late 1800s and early 1900s. For buildings without a Certificate of Occupancy (which was not required until 1938), the 'I-cards' have been accepted as the legal record of existing occupancy as of the last date indicated on the card. Buildings with I-cards may have more recent legal occupancy records if any lawful alteration or conversion work was performed in the building after the last date on the I-card. For information on alterations or conversions conducted since the last date on the I-card, Department of Buildings records should be consulted, since a Certificate of Occupancy may have been issued or additional plans may have been approved. Pursuant to the New York City Charter, if there is both an I-card and a Certificate of Occupancy for a building, the Certificate of Occupancy controls as to all matters set forth therein.


I-card info is very basic and just shows the property was used for residential purposes. Some times the information is incorrect or incomplete. But it's better than nothing.

The Reg# might be the same registration number that HPD still uses for every building (it is on my building). It can list any alterations that took place back then. It should list the number of apartments in the building. If the building had 6+ apartment at any time, but not now, it should still be RS. It also has references to documents that should be held by the Dept. of Buildings.

Certificates of Occupancy were not required until 1938, and many older buildings still don't have them. Major alterations should trigger the need for a CofO.

OTOH, Rent Control cards (starting around 1943) are held by DHCR and you can get them by using FOIL. That should list services provided for each apartment.

Check the DOB website to see if there were permits issued to what they did in 2013, and any CofO's.

There are other ways to research buildings, but that's beyond the scope of this post. You can Google "NYC research my building" or variations on that. The NY Public Library had a good sheet on how to do that.

If older tenants were aware of the RS status, their statements in affidavits can be helpful, especially if they themselves are/were RS. They might even have old leases. Basically anything you can find might be useful for telling the story. 2013 isn't that long ago. Try researching buildings from 1840.

Be careful of rent strikes. I'm mindful of the situation with people's jobs and such during COVID, but the "CancelRent" movement, in our opinion, could create more problems than not. You will still owe the rent even as the courts are on hold for now.

You might have defenses, but do your research carefully. And make sure you research anything like J-51 tax abatements (check NYC DOF for that info)
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Re: 6 Unit Built in 1906- NO DHCR RECORD

Postby bucketbutt » Sat Aug 08, 2020 2:43 pm

New information:

I live in a "3 bedroom" apartment in Bushwick. I was the first tenant to move in in 2013 after renovations and saw my unit unfinished before signing the lease. The ceilings are very high so on the streetside of the apartment, one bedroom is lofted over the other. There is a third bedroom on the backyard side of the apartment.

I have recently learned more about building codes and my rights, and now know that both streetside bedrooms are not up to code. The lower bedroom ceiling height is only 7 feet tall and the lofted bedroom (I call the treehouse) ceiling height is barely 6 feet throughout the room. It has a skylight. The "floor" in the treehouse is stained plywood. Any water that is spilled leaks right through and has done damage to the paint and drywall bellow. The treehouse doesn't seem to be insulated is mostly 95+ degrees all summer and the ceiling is hot to the touch.

I looked at the permits on the DOB and the engineer self-certified- which I suspected meant the city has no idea about the code violations (despite me having HPD here many many times through the year). I received drawings for the work done that I requested from the DOB and the lofted bedroom and stairs are not on them!

Separate, but related, the drawings also indicate that the layout of the apartment was the same prior to their renovations in 2013. I don't believe that to be true. I saw the apartment while they were finishing the drywall and floors, the loft wasn't completed, and they boasted about "gutting" the apartment. I can't find any evidence of work permit done to change the layout from the i-cards from 2002 that show the kitchen and living room where the bedrooms are now and 3 interior bedrooms where the living room and kitchen now are.There are no records of the apartment layout being changed between 2002 and 2013. (See attached)

I have a complaint in with the DOB about a potential illegal conversion.

Any idea what the potential recourse is on this? My building has a tenant union and lawyer representing us because we also believe that our units were illegally destabilized.
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