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Lock change on building's front door- LL refusing keys

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

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Lock change on building's front door- LL refusing keys

Postby goodquestion » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:03 am

This is a tad complicated.

Living in 3BR with only 1 tenant on lease (common in this bldg; others do not have the key issue I will get into). Other occupants of the apt have tried to get on the lease in previous years during lease renewals; LL rejected this notion out of hand. Not because of bad credit checks or anything- just does not want to add tenants to the lease, likely because our apt has crossed the $2K line and he wants the best opportunity to deregulate.

Recently, LL changed the lock on the building's front door (not our apartment door). He would not give us 3 keys, 1 for each occupant/bedroom, even with an extra security deposit for the keys.

LL also wants the tenant out, claiming occupants are illegal subletters (we each have our own bedroom, we are not subletting in tenant's BR) and that the tenant does not use the apartment as primary residence. Tenant spends some time not in apt, but meets the 183 day requirement...further LL has no proof that the tenant is elsewhere.

I understand that there is some law that says the tenant can have 1 person not on the lease live there (aside from family, which we are not). However the LL has refused, without cause, adding us to the lease. And now he's withholding keys.

No forms/notices have been supplied, and further, the LL issued a lease renewal which tenant is about to sign and return (within the 60 day period).

What is our best course of action?
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:48 pm

Putting aside the key issue, you should be glad the LL is not letting roommates (AKA "licensee") on the lease. Doing so would create a new vacancy lease with a vacancy increase, and possible deregulate the unit if it's currently above $2K.

The prime tenant has every right to have an unrelated roommate as in the Real Property Law. However, more than one roommate might not be allowed, even with a 3 BR unit (I've never seen that situation addressed specifically). Again, I wouldn't push that issue.

And the prime tenant should be VERY careful. While he might meet the 183-day test, that won't stop the LL from litigating. And you don't know what might happen there.

If these are regular keys, it might be quicker to get them duplicated yourselves. Yes, I know some say "Do Not Duplicate" but some places won't check or don't care.

Did the LL provide keys for all occupants before he changed the locks? If so, he would be required to provide the same level of services.

Next post is a case that might have some bearing. I haven't read the entire thing, just scanned it.
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:49 pm

M E M O R A N D U M
SUPREME COURT: QUEENS COUNTY
IA PART: 19
------------------------------------x
In the Matter of the Application of INDEX NO. 16751/05
HERMAN WEINGORD, et al.,
BY: SATTERFIELD, J.
Petitioners, DATED: November 18, 2005
-against-
NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF HOUSING
AND COMMUNITY RENEWAL, etc.,
Respondent.
Re: 143-50 Hoover Avenue
Briarwood, New York 11435
------------------------------------x
In this Article 78 proceeding, petitioners Herman
Weingord and 143-50 Hoover Owners Corp. seek a judgment vacating
the decision and order of respondent New York State Division of
Housing and Community Renewal, Office of Rent Administration
(DHCR), dated June 2, 2005, which denied Weingord=s petition for
administrative review and upheld a rent reduction based upon a
failure to maintain services.
Petitioner 143-50 Hoover Owners Corp. is the owner and
landlord of an apartment building located at 143-50 Hoover
Avenue, Briarwood, New York. Petitioner Herman Weingord is the
proprietary lessee and owner of the shares of stock allocated to
apartment 107 in the subject building. Rosalyn Stark is the
rent-stabilized tenant in apartment 107. Mrs. Stark filed an
application with the DHCR on July 6, 2004, for a rent reduction
based upon a decrease in building-wide services. Mrs. Stark
asserted that she was not provided with a second key to the lobby
doors when the locks were changed, and that the owner sought to
charge her $250.00 for a second key. Mrs. Stark stated that when
she moved into the building she and her husband were each
provided with a set of keys, and that she needed a second key so
that her daughter could have access to the building, in the event
that she was unable to get out of bed and let her in.
Mr. Weingord stated in an answer that the Rent
Stabilization Code did not require that a tenant be given more
than one building key, and did not require that a tenant be
provided with an extra key for a non-resident. He also stated
that extra keys were neither sold nor given to anyone. Mr.
Weingord stated that when Mrs. Stark and her husband moved into
the building 35 years ago they were each given a building key,
and that no extra keys were provided. In 1999 the building
installed new locks on the building entrance doors and issued new
Mul-T-Lock keys for these doors. One key opened all of these
doors. Mr. Weingord stated that as Mrs. Stark=s husband died
prior to 1999, she was issued one new key to the entrance doors.
It was further stated that the building corporation=s board of
directors adopted a house rule which provides that building keys
are issued to residents for their use, and that extra or spare
keys are not issued. It was asserted that the installation of
the new locks and the issuance of keys in this manner served the
purpose of improving building security. It was also asserted
that a non-resident such as Mrs. Stark=s daughter could gain
access to the building by contacting her mother=s neighbors; that
her daughter could contact the members of the board of directors
using the building=s intercom; and that management or building
employees could also provide the daughter with access to the
building.
The DHCR sent a notice to Mr. Weingord on September 13,
2004 stating that A[t]his is to inform you that a tenant is
entitled to a minimum of two keys per apartment. Therefore,
please confirm that you have given an additional key to the
subject tenant.@ Mr. Weingord stated in a response that Mrs.
Stark is the sole occupant of the apartment, that she had been
provided with two keys to the apartment door lock, and that there
was no requirement that she be given two keys to the entrance
door lock and, therefore, she was issued one key. He asserted
that he did not have an additional building entrance key to give
to her because the apartment corporation which owns and manages
the building only issued one key to him for access. He further
stated that Mrs. Stark was demanding an additional building
entrance key for a non-resident and that this was contrary to the
building owner=s long-standing policy to further building
security. Mr. Weingord, therefore, asserted that he was in full
compliance with all of the DHCR=s requirements.
The Rent Administrator, in a decision and order dated
October 26, 2004, granted Mrs. Stark=s application for a rent
reduction based upon the failure to maintain services, stating
that A[w]hile there is a common interest in maintaining security,
reasonable access to the apartment is essential. A tenant is
entitled to a minimum of 2 (two) keys per apartment. The owner
does not have a right to restrict access and the result of an
insufficient number of keys to enter the building is a
restriction of access.@ Mr. Weingord was directed to restore the
services within 30 days of the date of the issuance of the order.
Mr. Weingord filed a petition for administrative review
(PAR) with the DHCR on November 22, 2004, in which he asserted
that Section 2520.6(r) of the Rent Stabilization Code does not
state that two entrance keys are a required service, and that the
failure to provide an extra key is a de minimis condition and,
therefore, does not warrant a reduction in rent. Mrs. Stark
filed an answer in opposition to the PAR response on December 24,
2004, in which she stated that she lived in the building for more
than 46 years; that she chose not to purchase her apartment and
remained a rent- stabilized tenant; that she is 76 years old and
is disabled; that she had requested another key to the entrance
door; that many other residents had more than one key to the
entrance door; and that providing her with another key would not
compromise the building=s security. She also stated that she had
a two-bedroom apartment and that on occasion her daughter slept
over in order to assist her, and that in the event of an
emergency her daughter should not be required to track down
unknown trustees in order to gain access to the building.
Finally, Mrs. Stark asserted that the denial of an extra key was
a smokescreen and bordered on harassment, and that providing her
with an extra key would make her life easier, without
compromising the building=s security.
Paul Roldan, the Deputy Commissioner of the DHCR,
issued a decision and order dated June 2, 2005, in which he
denied the PAR and upheld the finding of a reduction in essential
services and the imposition of a rent reduction. The Deputy
Commissioner rejected the owner=s claim that the failure to
provide Mrs. Stark with a second key for the building entrance
door was a de minimis condition, stating that the agency=s
November 10, 1995 memorandum concerning de minimis conditions has
been codified in Sections 2523.4(e) and (f) of the Rent
Stabilization Code, and that the schedule of building-wide
conditions does not list the failure to provide a second entrance
door key as a de minimis condition. He further stated that
although certain other conditions may be de minimis in nature,
such conditions Aare those which have a minimal impact on
tenants, are not hazards to health, do not affect the use and
enjoyment of the premises and may exist despite regular
maintenance of services. In this instance, agency opinion
letters and court decisions have held that a tenant is entitled
to a minimum of two keys and one for each occupant of permissible
age (10 years old). Thus, the failure to provide the tenant with
two keys cannot be considered de minimis. Additionally, Section
2523.4(f)(1) of the Code holds, where more than four years have
passed between the date the change occurred and the date of the
complaint, there is a presumption that the condition is de
minimis. Here, however, the file is silent as to the exact date
the door lock was changed and, therefore, no presumption has been
created. (The presumption created by Section 2523.4(f)(1) is a
rebuttable presumption).@ The Commissioner, therefore, found
that the tenant was entitled to an additional key and that the
Rent Administrator was entitled to reduce the rent.
Petitioners Herman Weingord and 143-50 Hoover Owners
Corp. thereafter commenced the within Article 78 petition and
seek a judgment annulling the DHCR=s decision and order of June
2, 2005 on the grounds that it is not supported by the facts or
the law and, therefore, is arbitrary and capricious. Petitioners
assert that the DHCR=s finding that providing two keys per
apartment is a required service is erroneous. Petitioners assert
that each resident is provided with one key and, therefore, as
Mrs. Stark is the sole occupant of her apartment, the owner was
not required to provide her with more than one key to the
entrance door. It is also asserted that in order to have a
successful security program in the subject building, strict
adherence to the key policy is necessary and extra keys are not
provided to any resident. Petitioners further assert that the
DHCR=s finding that the failure to provide more than one key per
apartment is not de minimis, is erroneous. It is asserted that
Section 2523.4 of the Rent Stabilization Code provides that A
changes in door-locking devices, where security or access is not
otherwise compromised@ constitutes a de minimis condition which
does not rise to the level of a failure to maintain a required
service. In addition, it is asserted that as the PAR alleged
that the door locks were changed in 1998, and as no complaint was
thereafter filed within four years, the Commissioner should have
applied the presumption that the condition complained of was de
minimis, pursuant to Section 2523.4(f) of the Rent Stabilization
Code.
Respondent DHCR, in opposition, asserts that its
decision and order of June 2, 2005 is neither arbitrary nor
capricious and has a reasonable basis in the record and the law
and, therefore, should be upheld.
It is well settled that the court=s power to review an
administrative action is limited to whether the determination was
warranted in the record, has a reasonable basis in law and is
neither arbitrary nor capricious. (Matter of Colton v Berman, 21
NY2d 322 [1967]; Matter of 36-08 Queens Realty v New York State
Div. of Hous. and Community Renewal, 222 AD2d 440 [1995].) In
the case at bar, the court finds that the DHCR=s decision and
order of June 2, 2005, which denied the owner=s PAR, and upheld
the finding of a decrease in services and the imposition of a
rent reduction, has a reasonable basis in the law and record and
is neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor an abuse of discretion
and, therefore, will be upheld.
It is well settled that Ait is for the [DHCR] to
determine what constitutes a required service and whether that
service has been maintained.@ (Matter of Sherman v Commissioner,
New York State Div. of Hous. and Community Renewal, 210 AD2d 486,
487 [1994], quoting Matter of Rubin v Eimicke, 150 AD2d 697, 698
[1989]; see also, Clarendon Mgmt. Corp. v N.Y. State Div. of
Hous. & Cmty. Renewal, 271 AD2d 688 [2000]; Matter of Oriental
Blvd. Co. v New York City Conciliation and Appeals Bd., 92 AD2d
770 [1983], affirmed 60 NY2d 633 [1983]; Matter of Fresh Meadows
Associates v Conciliation and Appeals Board, 88 Misc 2d 1003
[1976], affirmed 55 AD2d 559[1976], affirmed 42 NY2d 927 [1977].)
Section 2520.6(f) of the Rent Stabilization Code
defines required services as including a service that was
maintained on the base date or that was provided by the owner
thereafter, and includes ancillary services. The DHCR issued an
inter-office memorandum dated November 10, 1995, pertaining to
the processing of service complaints, which stated that some
conditions complained of may be de minimis in nature and do not
constitute a decrease in services. These conditions were listed
by the DHCR. On December 20, 2000, the Rent Stabilization Code
was amended in order to incorporate the conditions cited as de
minimis in the DHCR=s memorandum. Section 2523.4(e) of the Rent
Stabilization Code now details the service deficiencies which
may, under some circumstances, be considered de minimis.
Included as a de minimis condition is: ABuilding entrance
door-removal of canopy over unlocked door leading to vestibule;
changes in door-locking devices, where security or access is not
otherwise compromised@ (9 NYCCR 2523.4[e][2]). This section only
pertains to a change in the type of a door-locking device, and
does not include a failure to provide duplicate keys for a
building=s main entrance door lock. The court, therefore, finds
that the Commissioner properly determined that the failure to
provide Mrs. Stark with a duplicate key for the building=s main
entrance door lock was not a de minimis condition.
The court further finds that in determining whether a
de minimis condition existed, the Commissioner properly
determined that the presumption contained in 9 NYCRR 2523.4(f)
was not applicable here. Mrs. Stark alleged in her complaint
that the door locks were changed in 1999. Petitioner Weingord in
his answer to the tenant=s complaint asserted that the locks were
changed in 1999. In his PAR he stated that the tenant=s request
for a second key was denied Aas building wide policy since 1998
has been that only building residents are issued building
entrance keys. This is for security purposes.@ He also asserted
that this was a Abuilding wide condition.@ Mr. Weingord, however,
did not state whether this Apolicy@ was instituted before or
after the entrance door locks were changed, and presented no
evidence as to the date the door locks were changed.
The court finds that the DHCR=s decision and order of
June 2, 2005 is consistent with prior agency decisions. It is
well settled that the interpretation given by the agency to a
regulation that promulgated it and is responsible for its
administration, is entitled to deference, where as here, that
interpretation is not irrational or unreasonable. (See Gaines v
New York State Div. of Hous. & Community Rewewal, 90 NY2d 545,
549 [1997]; Matter of Versailles Realty Co. v New York State Div.
of Hous. & Community Renewal, 76 NY2d 325 [1990]; Salvati v
Eimicke, 72 NY2d 784, 791 [1988]; Albe Realty Co. v Division of
Hous. & Community Renewal, 197 AD2d 618 [1993]). Here, the DHCR
stated in its decision that agency opinion letters and court
decisions have held that a tenant is entitled to a duplicate key,
in addition to a key for each apartment occupant 10 years of age
or older, and that the failure to provide such keys constitutes a
decrease in essential services. The DHCR has submitted three
agency opinions B- Matter of W. 122nd Street Associates LP
(issued on December 24, 2004), Matter of Jerwin Property Corp.
(issued on April 16, 2003) and Matter of 153 Avenue A Associates,
L.P. (issued on August 17, 2001)Bin which it determined that
where the owner previously provided the tenant with more than one
key to the building=s entrance door, the owner=s failure to
provide more than one key, after the entrance door lock was
changed, constituted a reduction in essential services, that this
was not de minimis, and that a rent reduction was warranted. The
DHCR also submitted an agency opinion entitled Matter of Sallie
Raynor (issued February 14, 2003) in which the Commissioner
upheld a determination that the owner had provided the tenant
with a sufficient number of duplicate front entry keys (two per
apartment, plus additional keys for additional legal residents,
plus other additional keys under Aspecial circumstances@), and
found that the ability of the tenants to duplicate keys is not a
base-date service.
Petitioner=s reliance on Matter of 153 Avenue A
Associates, L.P. is misplaced. The Commissioner therein noted
that an owner, for security reasons, could set limits on the
number of duplicate keys provided to each tenant and could
require the tenant to provide reasonable information as to the
purpose of each additional key requested. However, the
Commissioner determined that the owner had failed to establish a
that would justify limiting to each tenant a single copy of the
main entrance door key. Therefore, the DHCR required the owner
to provide the complaining tenant with more than one key for the
main entry door to the building. Here, the evidence presented to
the agency established that Mrs. Stark resided in the subject
apartment since 1958 and that she and her husband were each
provided with keys to the building=s entrance doors. Petitioners
failed to present any evidence in the proceedings before the DHCR
which established that the number of keys provided to Mrs. Stark
were limited to the number of occupants at the time she took
occupancy, and failed to establish a compelling security issue
that would justify a limit of a single key to each tenant.
Petitioners claim that if Mrs. Stark was provided with an extra
key, all of the tenants would have to be given an extra key and
that this would compromise the building=s security, and that
non-residents would gain access to the building. This argument
was rejected by the Rent Administrator and the Commissioner, and
will not be revisited here. The court further finds that
petitioners= reliance on the agency=s opinion in Matter of Sallie
Raynor is misplaced. In that proceeding, the DHCR found that the
tenant was supplied with a sufficient number of duplicate keys
and, thus, was not entitled to an unlimited number of duplicate
keys. In the proceeding brought by Mrs. Stark, it is undisputed
that the owner failed to provide her with more than one key to
the building=s entrance door, after the lock was changed.
In view of the foregoing, petitioners= request to
vacate the DHCR=s decision and order of June 2, 2005 is denied,
and the petition is dismissed.
Settle judgment.
J.S.C.
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:17 pm

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Postby goodquestion » Mon Oct 11, 2010 11:56 am

thanks for the response. would you mind clarifying a few further points for me?

is changing the locks on the building door (not apartment door) considered an illegal eviction? could i/should i call the police? and if so, what is considered sufficient evidence of occupancy- dated mail/official letters with my address? my checks are written to the tenant not the LL.
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Postby ronin » Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:18 am

Changing locks on the front door of the building is an illegal eviction.

NYC Administrative Code -- Section 26-521


NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT
PATROL GUIDE
Procedure No. 117-11
UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS

Date Issued: 2-21-86
This new law makes it unlawful for any person to evict or attempt to evict an occupant by:

a. using or threatening to use force, OR
b. interruption or discontinuance of essential services (heat, electricity, water), OR
c. removing the occupants possessions from the dwelling, OR
d. removing the entrance door, OR
e. removing, plugging or rendering inoperable the entrance door lock, OR
f. changing the lock on such entrance door without supplying the occupant with a key.

1. Prepare Universal Summons in cases where the violator is properly identified and occupant is permitted to re-enter the dwelling.

a. Follow Patrol Guide procedure 109-2 (General Procedure - Personal Service Summons)

b. Prepare a separate summons for each offense

2. Effect An Arrest Where The Violator:

a. Cannot Be Properly Identified, or

b. Refuses To Permit Occupant To Re-Enter Or Who Through Physical Obstruction Prevents The Occupant From Re- Entering.


Call the cops. But expect them to send some goons who will say something like, "The LL can do whatever they want." Once they are not stopping the crime- call for a supervisor- a lieutenant or sergeant should arrive. Explain the Administrative code and the NYPD policy guide. Sometimes they will take it from there. If not, call 911 and state that uniformed officers are aiding and abetting a crime. You will be patched through to a detective give the detective their badge numbers and state the Administrative Code section they are violating. Usually at this point the supervisor snaps into action and they start enforcing the law. The LL's only way to avoid arrest at that point is to cough up the keys.

This was covered in the "Sister Malika" episodes of my show. Those will be posted on the net soon.

Good luck. (search Tenant Net for the full text of the policy)
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Postby Sky » Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:54 pm

Someone once told me that there's no key that can't be duplicated for $50 at the right locksmith.
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Postby goodquestion » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:45 pm

Just as an update for anyone interested/for future viewers of this thread:

The police kindly disagreed with us. Even after speaking to a supervisor (Sergeant?), they said that we aren't really evicted because we do have 2 keys, regardless of 3 occupants.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:49 am

Sky wrote:Someone once told me that there's no key that can't be duplicated for $50 at the right locksmith.


The trick is finding the right locksmith.

Similar situation in the building where we live. Landlord has ignored requests for replacement or additional keys and a number of people, including the realtors who show apartments, do without. Most times they ring neighbor's doorbells, even in the middle of the night. One time, when the front door bell had been out of order for several days, one person decided to call the super instead.

Of course the super was livid but according to my neighbor he managed to come up with an additional key in a matter of days.
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
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Postby MikeW » Wed Jan 26, 2011 3:07 pm

If a key is stamped "Do Not Duplicate" a locksmith is, by law, not supposed to. This is pretty widely ignored.

Several lock manufactures provide "key control" lock cylinders (Medeco, Mul-t-lock, etc.). To get duplicate keys, a locksmith is supposed to follow certain procedures. The more expensive the cylinder, the tougher the procedure. For the toughest, they'd have to go back to the mfgr, with proof that some who wants a copy is legitimate (usually in possession of an ID card that came with the cylinder), and only them will the mfgr send the locksmith a blank that will work with the cylinder.

Most LL don't go to that complication or expense.
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