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Broken electrical outlets

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

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Broken electrical outlets

Postby Bktenant » Tue Dec 24, 2019 2:04 am

Broken outlets all around the apartment only one functions in each room. The use of extension cords is necessary. The owner has been informed but the only solution is to seal them up with plaster they claim. Anothe outlet that is linked to a light fixture shorts when anything is plugged in. How can i go about in succesfully restoring the circuits around my apartment?
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Re: Broken electrical outlets

Postby TenantNet » Tue Dec 24, 2019 6:29 am

You don't specify what the conditions are, but as with anything, first document the condition(s). Photos might not reveal anything, but a list of what works, what doesn't (and why) makes sense. Are these mechanical issues (loose wires), or something else like the power isn't even reaching the receptacles? Did this all happen at once, or over time?

You also don't say if you are RS (you might have said in an earlier post, but I haven't gone back and looked). But if you are RS, this is a loss of service.

It's also a problem with DOB (electrical division) and maybe even HPD. See the Housing Maintenance Code at http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub2/art10.html -- "the owner shall install and maintain such receptacle outlets as may be required by the electrical code."

Plastering over the outlets is not the solution and might even be illegal. I would not let the LL in to plaster over the receptacles. I would a) call 311 ASAP and get an inspector out to put it on record. If need be you can start a HP Action in Housing Court. So if you can, get the LL to put his solution on paper, but if not, try to record him surreptitiously (with a cel phone) as to his intentions.

The courts and government agencies might not tell him "how" to make repairs, but it can tell him to restore the outlets to working order. That mean he has to hire a licensed electrician to fix them ... ALL of them. While you're at it, look at how the power gets into your apartment. Is it by fuse or circuit breaker? How many amperes (amps) service the unit. If it's a ridiculously small number, you might be able to get that increased to a reasonable level.
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Re: Broken electrical outlets

Postby Bktenant » Tue Dec 24, 2019 8:26 pm

Hi thanks, I apologize for the lack of detail. The issue is that most are non fuctional no power, i tried an outlet tester and it shows that one outlet has reversed polarity which might be why when i plug in something the light goes off. I had previously given noticed but nothing was done just the offer to cover the outlets up as the landlord deemed them non fixable. Since i had already gone through a process that the landlord was notified and dhcr was aware yet the resolution was to cover up i have left the situation. So i think an hp action would be the next step but i really dont want to notify the landlord once again to have the same outcome.
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Re: Broken electrical outlets

Postby Bktenant » Tue Dec 24, 2019 8:27 pm

Rs. The condition existed prior to move in.
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Re: Broken electrical outlets

Postby TenantNet » Tue Dec 24, 2019 8:58 pm

The LL has to provide working outlets. Document them, and take photos so they can't claim they didn't exist. Whatever it takes, they must provide working outlets. That likely means he has to hire an electrician and file with DOB (many LLs skirt that, but it's for safety).

You mention DHCR, so I'm assuming you are RS. Did you file a service complaint with DHCR and did they issue an order? Did the LL put in papers with DHCR responding to your complaint, and if so, what did they say? It's hard to follow what you are saying as your sentence structure is unclear.

You have the right to file a service complaint with DHCR. That is independent of your right to file a HP action. You can do either, or both. The HP action is quicker if repairs are what you're seeking. It takes about a month to file the proceeding (make sure you get the waiver of fees if your income is sufficiently low), to have an inspection and to have a court date. Usually HPD and the judge will pressure the LL to make the repair.

Sure, the LL will claim all sorts of things, but you have to make sure the judge knows the LL is pulling a fast one. If you wish, you can have a lawyer and even an architect, the latter to verify the law on outlets. But you should not have to go to that extreme. You can also get a DOB Electrical inspection before you file a HP Action and the DOB violation can be used as evidence.

At some point the LL will get involved - they have to be as they will be respondent to the HP Action or the DHCR proceeding. I know it's uncomfortable, but learn to deal with that part of it.
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Re: Broken electrical outlets

Postby Sky » Tue Feb 04, 2020 2:29 pm

What you need to do is call 311 and request to make a complaint to DOB, Electrical Division.

The operator is a city operator and not a technician, so state as clearly as you can the issues and defects. If unsure of something, better to voice your concerns then to understate the issue, let DOB figure it out during their inspection. From reading what you've written, it sounds like your complaint refers to, "unsafe and unstable electrical wiring and service, 50% of outlets are incorrectly wired and do not function at all, other outlets are wired incorrectly so as to overload the circuit and trigger the breaker when anything is plugged in, grave concern that wiring throughout the entire apartment was performed illegally, is defective, violates the prevailing electrical code, and as such presents a safety and fire hazard. Owner has been notified of the situation but refuses to remedy it. Request a DOB inspector to inspect the electrical installation throughout the premises ASAP and to subsequently notify owner as to what measures must be taken to correct the defects".

Something like that ought to get the DOB's attention. If there are real fire hazards present a visit by NYFD and subsequent report can also do wonders to motivate a reluctant LL - as they deal with dangerous electrical stuff - but be warned that if they respond and find a hazardous condition they could be heavy handed such as just severing all power to the apt. and require the LL to submit an affidavit before he restores power (or some other requirement) so you could end up without electricity. Bear in mind that you're not an electrician and you likely have no clue regarding the extent or severity of the electrical issues, which is why you need an inspection by a competent objective source; the LL has already proven that he's wholly incapable of providing this. Placing your faith in the LL's good will or good judgement regarding this issue going forward is ill advised.

To a reluctant LL who's already decided to blow off the situation, nothing will get his attention like the DOB writing up a full report [which may include issuing violations, monetary fines, demanding the defects be corrected by a NYS licensed electrician with permits, and a follow up inspection to confirm repairs have been satisfactorily performed according to NYS code]. This method of repair costs money and could entail DOB fines, licensed electrician fees, electrical permit filing fees, administrative costs ... and if a specified sq/ft. of wall must broken to perform the repairs a NYS licensed contractor would also be required - additionally if the building was built before a certain date it's thus presumed to have lead paint - and said contractor would also need to be EPA certified. All this will work wonders on providing your LL with a whole new perspective on the merits of maintaining your unit in a safe habitable condition, and to responsibly address your concerns in a timely manner when you respectfully and dutifully notify him. Another option would be to file an HP court action and sue for damages/abatement or conversely a DHCR rent reduction. You have to weigh the merits of each approach: it all depends how seriously you're concerned about the situation, the present risk, and what strategy you think will best get the LL's attention and action.

The reason I think it's important to have DOB inspect is that if the electric system is not up to code … who knows what they did with it? You certainly don't know. The landlord likely doesn't know. The unlicensed chumps he may hire to deal with it likely won't know. The 'plastering over' offer is nothing more than an 'out of sight, out of mind' response. And be forewarned that ‘out of sight’ often means 'Operation Concealment' has been effectively implemented and therefor a DOB inspection is unlikely to return any useful data on the state of your electric system: a DOB inspector is highly unlikely to break open walls in your apartment to go on a fishing expedition for buried outlets and electrical equipment, not without a court order. The LL will have successfully covered his tracks and buried the corpses so to speak. In such a situation you're screwed ... and if you then have to hire a contractor with your own funds to break open the walls so a real inspection can take place to see what's what and if things are safe, you make yourself liable to be sued for destruction of property and possibly evicted. That's why if a LL is noncompliant with your reasonable request IMHO it's imperative to go above his head to the city agencies which are mandated to deal with these issues. Don't warn him, don't put him on notice, don't give him an opportunity to defeat the DOB inspectors if he's already proved that he is unwilling to safely and responsibly remedy the problem: just call in a complaint and let the system do its work. If for some reason the complaint doesn't go through or an inspector doesn't gain access (many LLs have advanced skills in thwarting access to city inspectors), simply rinse and repeat the complaint process. Have patience as you're dealing with city agencies and they have a lot on their plate.

Of course, many LL's will not like this at all. They will not like this one bit. No siree. Not one bit. They envision themselves as land LORDS above and beyond the law - indeed making their own laws - and free to proceed howsoever they please. What's this now? New York City and New York State coming in and teaching them a lesson about the full weight of the State regarding laws, power, authority, safety, and enforcement? The power differential has radically shifted? No siree he will not like this one bit. Depending on his temperament and degree of self delusion he may conclude that his actions aren't at fault but that you're the problem, a thorn in his side. If such is the case he may, again deciding on temperament, decide to retaliate because he doesn't like the idea of having to be forced to comply with housing laws. So be forewarned. Forewarned is forearmed. Plenty of landlords are just plane nuts and one cannot predict how they will respond. That said, if the LL has refused your prior reasonable request(s) to remedy the situation, what other option is available to you? Just suck it up and live with dangerously defective wiring? Move? Sometimes life as a tenant unfortunately means that you have to be prepared for the possibility of a confrontation in order to assert your rights. Hopefully after the LL receives notice from the city he'll change his tune and do the right thing.

Best of luck.
Report back and let us know how it goes.
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