2012 Guide for Rent Regulated Tenants - New York State Assembly

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2012 Guide for Rent Regulated Tenants - New York State Assembly Powered By Docstoc
					                             from Assembly Member
2012 Guide for
Rent Regulated Tenants

                             1365 1st avenue, new York, nY 10021
             the office is located between 73rd and 74th streets on the ground level
                  Tel: 212-860-4906 • Fax: 917-432-2983 • Email: KellnerM@assembly.state.ny.us

Dear Neighbor,                                                      tHe rent aCt of 2011:
     There is no doubt that strong rent laws ensure                WHat You need to KnoW
a strong middle class for New York City. Rent                        This act will remain in effect until June 15, 2015
regulated tenants come from every walk of life;
                                                         Vacancy Decontrol limit raised from $2,000 to $2,500. Vacancy
they are the fabric of our vibrant and diverse city.
Losing the middle class would mean splitting the         decontrol allows owners to remove an apartment from regulation if it is
city between the very rich and the very poor. As         unoccupied and the rent is above a certain limit. The limit for vacancy
history has illustrated, this will set us on a path of   decontrol has been raised from $2,000 to $2,500. For more information on
urban decline. This is not a scenario that I would       vacancy decontrol due to high-rent see question 10.
want to see happen.                                      High Income Decontrol limit raised from $175,000 to $200,000.
     All too often dishonest owners take advan-
                                                         High income decontrol allows an owner to remove an apartment from
tage of tenants who don’t know their rights, us-
ing any means necessary to force hardworking             regulation if the residents’ combined income is over a certain amount for two
families from their homes. This is one of the            consecutive years and the vacancy decontrol limit has been reached. Under
main reasons why I continue to fight not only             the new law, owners will not be able to deregulate a family’s home unless
to extend rent regulations but to expand them.           their income is over $200,000 for two consecutive years and their rent is
2011 saw the first significant victories in the fight       over $2,500. This is the first increase in the income limits that tenants have
for affordable housing in nearly a decade and a          seen since 1997, despite well over a decade of inflation. For more information
half. While many significant reforms were made,           on decontrol due to high-rent and high-income see question 10.
there is still much to be done and I will continue
to fight until every family feels safe and secure         New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR)
in their own home. To your right, you will see           can now enforce the provisions of rent regulation. Until last year,
an overview of the improvements enacted by the           NYSHCR has been tasked with overseeing rent regulation, but it had not been
Rent Act of 2011.                                        given the authority to enforce the law and ensure that owners are abiding by
     I hope this newsletter can answer some of the       it. The enhanced rent regulation gives NYSHCR the power to enforce the
frequently asked questions that you may have.            law. For example, vacancy increases, which allow owners to raise the legal
It is important to remember that there are some          regulated rent by making improvements while the apartment is vacant, were
narrow exceptions to the rules outlined here, and        previously not certified by NYSHCR. Since owners were able to self-report
that, as with any legal matter, it is crucial to seek    their own improvements, there was no way to ensure these upgrades took place.
the advice of an experienced attorney. This is           In the new law, if an owner claims 10% or more in a rent increase due to
why I sponsor a free legal clinic on the first Mon-
                                                         improvements made before a tenant moves in, DHCR must certify this work
day of every month for tenants unable to afford
an attorney. This clinic is by appointment only,         and the tenant retains the ability to challenge the increase.
so please call my office if you would like to sched-      Reducing the burden of individual apartment Major Capital
ule an appointment.                                      Improvements (MCIs). A tenant’s responsibility for an individual
     As always if you have questions or need             apartment’s MCI has been reduced from 1/40th of the cost of the improvement
help with any problem, such as lack of heat or           to 1/60th of the cost for buildings with more than 35 units. For more
hot water, do not hesitate to call my office at
                                                         information on individual apartment MCIs please see question 5.
212-860-4906. We are always here to help you.
     Please let me know if you would like addi-
tional copies of this newsletter to distribute in
your building or to share with friends. For fre-
quent news and updates, I invite you to sub-                 Is the owner harassing you or threatening you with eviction?
scribe to my monthly email newsletter. Email                                Can’t afford to hire a lawyer?
me at KellnerM@assembly.state.ny.us and I                                  Come to Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner’s
will add you to my list.
                                                         free montHLY LeGaL CLInIC
                                                               for tenants
                                                                                with Eviction Intervention Services
                   Micah Kellner                                      By appointment only—call my office at 212-860-4906
                   Assembly Member
                                                                        The clinic is held the first Monday of every month
                                                                    1233 Second Avenue (between East 64th and 65th Streets)
                                                                          with appointments from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
                                                                                    Want more frequent updates?
                                        e-mail Kellnerm@assembly.state.ny.us to be added to assembly member Kellner's monthly e-newsletter list
                                                                                                                                                                       10. How does deregulation of high-                     12. How often must an owner paint
     Q&A: THE RIGHTS OF RENT REGULATED TENANTS                                                                                                                         rent or high-income units work?                        my apartment?                                                  GREAT NEWS FOR
                                                                                                                                                                            HIGH-RENT VACANT APARTMENTS:                          An owner must paint an apartment white                      TENANTS: THE
1. Is my apartment rent-regulated?                    are established annually by the NYC Rent               ings, or new services, known as an individual             As a general rule, rent-stabilized or rent-con-        once every three years and cannot charge you for
                                                                                                                                                                       trolled apartments that become vacant with a le-       this service. However, some rent control tenants
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ROBERTS DECISION
What is the difference between “rent-                 Guidelines Board (RGB), whose members                  apartment MCI. However, your written consent
                                                      are appointed by the Mayor.                            (and an owner’s notification to DHCR, if you              gal, regulated rent of $2,500 or more per month        might be charged a rent increase if the owner has               STILL STANDS
controlled” and “rent-stabilized”?
    Your apartment is probably “rent-controlled”          For a one-year renewal lease commencing            are a rent-controlled tenant) is necessary before         are deregulated.                                       never painted and it is considered an increase in             The J-51 tax break allows the State to
if your building was built before 1947, contains      on or after October 1, 2012 and on or before           such increase goes into effect.                                An exception is when the owners are receiv-       services (also called Individual Apartment Im-            share the costs of capital improvements
three or more apartments, and you or a family         September 30, 2013 the maximum increase is                 A tenant does not have to accept new ap-              ing J-51 or 421-a property tax breaks. These           provements, see Q5).                                      and in return preserves affordable hous-
member moved in before July 1, 1971. Gener-           2% or $20 whichever is greater. For a two-             pliances or services and pay an increase. In              units remain regulated until the owner stops                                                                     ing through rent regulation. The Court of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              13. What responsibilities do owners
ally, rent-controlled tenants have only one old,      year renewal lease commencing on or after              the event that an appliance breaks down, the              receiving the tax benefits. Deregulation provi-                                                                  Appeals upheld that owners, who have
                                                                                                                                                                       sions also do not apply when DHCR finds that           have to provide heat and hot water?                       used the J-51 tax break, cannot take ad-
original lease or no lease at all.                    October 1, 2012 and on or before September             law requires the owner to repair it or replace it                                                                    During the heating season (October 1 to
    Your apartment is probably “rent-stabilized”      30, 2013 the maximum increase is 4% or $40             with a used or reconditioned appliance in good            an owner harassed a tenant in order to vacate the                                                                vantage of the tax break while deregulat-
                                                                                                                                                                       apartment. Another important exception is “suc-        May 31), owners must provide heat as follows:             ing apartments at the same time. Own-
if your building contains six or more apartments      whichever is greater.                                  working order. As of September 24, 2011, if a                                                                    DAY: (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), if the temperature out-
and was built between 1947 and 1973; or was               Although the RGB did not authorize a               tenant opts for a new appliance or increased ser-         cession” which occurs when the tenant of record                                                                  ers were trying to have the best of both
                                                                                                                                                                       dies or vacates the apartment, but that person’s       side is 55 degrees or less, apartments must be at         worlds by taking taxpayer dollars and
built before 1947 and you moved in after June         vacancy increase for new tenants in rent sta-          vices, an owner is entitled to collect a permanent                                                               least 68 degrees.
30, 1971. Rent-stabilized tenants have leases         bilized apartments, statutory provisions re-           monthly rent increase equal to 1/60th of its cost         family member continues to live in the apart-                                                                    then using a loophole to renege on their
                                                                                                                                                                       ment (see Q21).                                        NIGHT: (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.), if the temperature            side of the deal. Keeping the Roberts de-
that are renewed every one or two years.              authorized in the Rent Act of 2011 allow for           in buildings with more than 35 units and 1/40th                                                                  is 40 degrees or less, apartments must be at least
    Some apartments that meet these general           substantial automatic vacancy increases of up          of its cost in buildings with 34 or fewer units.               Owners who deregulate an apartment must,                                                                    cision in place ensures that tenants who
                                                                                                                                                                       within 30 days, provide the first new tenant with      55 degrees.                                               have been overcharged by unscrupulous
criteria are exempt due to the timing of past va-     to 20% of the legal regulated rent once per            Again, this can only happen with the tenant’s                                                                        Owners must supply hot water throughout
cancies, the high rent level of the apartment or      calendar year.                                         written consent. Owners are also entitled to add          a notice showing how the rent reached the de-                                                                    owners will be able to recoup the money
                                                                                                                                                                       regulation threshold and a DHCR phone number           the year at a minimum temperature of 120 de-              that is rightfully theirs.
the high income of the tenant (see Q10), or as a          Owners of apartments that are being sub-           individual apartment MCI increases to the legal                                                                  grees. If the owner fails to provide heat or hot
result of a major rehabilitation after 1973.          let may collect an additional 10% increase             rent for vacant apartments.                               and address to verify this.                                                                                          If you are living in a building that
                                                                                                                                                                            HIGH-INCOME TENANT/HIGH-                          water, keep an accurate daily record of this and          was ever rent regulated, and one or
    Apartments in buildings constructed after         under the guidelines, but this figure may                                                                                                                               report it to the NYC Department of Housing
                                                                                                             6. How can I find out what my legal                       RENT OCCUPIED UNITS: Owners are                                                                                  more units in the building are now
1973 are not rent-regulated unless the owners         change next year.                                                                                                                                                       Preservation and Development (HPD) by call-
                                                                                                             rent is supposed to be?                                   also permitted to apply for a deregulation order if:                                                             deregulated, you may be wondering
receive certain tax benefits. The most common         5. What additional increases can af-                        You have the right to know the maximum                                                                      ing 311. For lack of heat, be sure to record the
of these are called “J-51” or “421-a.” Stabiliza-                                                                                                                           1) the combined federal adjusted gross an-                                                                  if this decision applies to you or your
                                                      fect regulated apartments?                             rent the owner can charge. Rent-controlled ten-           nual income of occupants is over $200,000              temperature outside and inside. When you make             neighbors. If you call my office, my
tion protections for these apartments are based           SURCHARGES: Owners of rent-con-                    ants receive a notice of increase (RN-26S or                                                                     a complaint to 311 be sure to write down the
on when the tenant moved in, when the build-                                                                                                                           for each of the last two consecutive calendar                                                                    staff can help you find out.
                                                      trolled apartments can apply for increased labor       RN-26) from the owner. If you disagree with the           years, and                                             complaint number you are given and then call
ing was built or rehabilitated, and specific lease    and fuel costs, but tenants must be notified of the    calculation, the MBR Order can be challenged                                                                     my office. My staff can follow-up on your com-
clauses. Special rules also apply to buildings                                                                                                                              2) the legal rent for the apartment is $2,500                                                             the balance of the lease if an owner brings an
                                                      applications and have the opportunity to chal-         by filing RA-94 MBR.                                      or more per month.                                     plaint with HPD.
owned by non-profit organizations.                    lenge the request. No pass-alongs are permitted             For new rent-stabilized tenants, owners are                                                                     Tenants have the right, in an emergency             action in court. While some owners may be
                                                                                                                                                                            In order to apply for a decontrol/destabiliza-                                                            pleased about a tenant leaving before the lease is
2. What happens if I move into                        for rent-stabilized apartments.                        required to include a lease rider that discloses          tion order, an owner must send the tenant an In-       where the landlord has not ordered fuel, to pur-
                                                          Surcharges are permitted for air condition-        the rent paid by the last tenant. Owners are                                                                     chase it for their building and deduct the cost         up, tenants should be wary of counting on this. It
an apartment that was previously                                                                                                                                       come Certification Form (ICF) by May 1. Own-                                                                   is better to discuss the situation with the owner
rent-controlled?                                      ers, washers, dryers, and dishwashers. Owners          also required to register the rent for every rent-        ers can apply annually, and tenants must respond       from their rents, provided they follow a specified
                                                      of stabilized apartments built with 421-a tax          stabilized apartment with DHCR annually, and                                                                     procedure. For further information call HPD at          well in advance of when you want to move out.
    Vacant rent-controlled apartments renting                                                                                                                          within 30 days. The ICF will ask for the names
for $2,500 a month or more are deregulated. All       benefits are authorized to collect a special sur-      provide all tenants with a copy of the registra-          of all occupants and whether their combined            311 or call my office.                                  16. What other rights do tenants have?
other apartments switch over to the rent stabi-       charge of the apartment’s initial rent each year       tion (RR-2A).                                             income exceeded $200,000 in the previous two
                                                                                                                                                                                                            14. Do I have the right to sublet my                                          The Warranty of Habitability Law, the Ten-
lization program. The first new rents for these       for the length of the benefit period.                       Tenants can also find out their last registered      years. “Apartment occupants” include all people
                                                                                                                                                                                                            apartment?                                                                ant Protection Act, the Housing Maintenance
apartments are set by the owner, subject to the           BUILDING-WIDE MAJOR CAPITAL                        rent from DHCR by contacting the Manhattan                using the apartment as their primary residence;
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Rent-stabilized tenants have the right to                             Code, the Multiple Dwelling Law, and other
following limitations:                                IMPROVEMENTS (MCIs): Eligible MCIs,                    Borough Rent Office and providing proof of                it does not include temporary occupants, subten-
                                                                                                                                                                                                            sublet their apartments for two years out of any                          laws guarantee tenants certain essential services
    The Rent Guidelines Board currently sets          the cost of which become a permanent addition          identity and occupancy (copy of lease, rent re-           ants, or live-in employees.          four-year period subject to the owner’s consent,                          and protections.
the maximum increase for formally-rent con-           to monthly rents, must contribute to the opera-        ceipt or bill; rent-controlled tenants can show a              If the total occupant income is over $200,000
                                                                                                                                                                                                            which cannot be unreasonably withheld. Un-                                    Tenants have the right to a safe, well-main-
trolled apartments at 30% of the Maximum Base         tion, maintenance and preservation of the build-       utility bill).                                            for each of the previous two years, owners may
                                                                                                                                                                                                            less provided for in an old lease or some special                         tained, livable apartment, to be free of threats and
Rent or a Fair Market Rent as set by the owner,       ing, and directly or indirectly benefit all the ten-        If you believe you are being overcharged,            file a Petition by Owner for High-Income Rent
                                                                                                                                                                                                            agreement with the owner, rent-controlled ten-                            harassment, to organize and hold tenants’ meet-
whichever is greater. Fair market rents must be       ants. The most common improvements are new             you may file a Rent Overcharge complaint (RA-             Deregulation with DHCR by June 30 of that
                                                                                                                                                                                                            ants have no legal right to sublet.                                       ings in their building, and to make complaints
comparable to similar sized market-rate apart-        roofs, elevators, boilers, or windows in every         89) for up to four years after the overcharge oc-         year. Within 30 days of the filing of the form,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                A tenant may sublet an apartment if the                               about lack of services without fear of reprisal.
ments in the neighborhood.                            apartment.                                             curred or began.                                          DHCR must issue a deregulation order. If a ten-
                                                                                                                                                                                                            owner unreasonably withholds consent or fails                                 Owners must: identify and register with
    Tenants who believe their new rent is not             DHCR may reject MCI applications if own-                                                                     ant fails to return the form, owners may file a
                                                                                                                                                                                                            to respond to a request to sublet. A tenant can-                          HPD the name of both the owner and agent
                                                                                                             7. What lease renewal options apply
based on rents for similar apartments in the neigh-   ers have failed to maintain required services in                                                                 Petition For Deregulation, and DHCR will then
                                                                                                                                                                                                            not sublet if the owner reasonably withholds                              authorized to make emergency repairs; post a
                                                      the building or there are outstanding “immedi-         to rent-stabilized apartments?
borhood have until 90 days from receipt of the                                                                                                                         attempt to obtain income information from the
                                                                                                                                                                                                            consent. “Reasonable” objections include the                              phone number where the owner/agent can be
                                                      ately hazardous” violations. DHCR may grant                Tenants have the right to renew their lease
notification or four years from the time the unit                                                                                                                      tenant. If a tenant doesn’t respond, DHCR must
                                                                                                                                                                                                            past rental history of the prospective subtenant                          reached at all times; provide regular extermina-
                                                      increases conditioned on correction of violations      for a one- or two-year period at the RGB’s ap-
was no longer rent-controlled to file a Fair Market                                                                                                                    issue a deregulation order. If a tenant reports
                                                                                                                                                                                                            or information indicating that the tenant doesn’t                         tion services; provide sufficient daily garbage
                                                      within a reasonable time frame. The costs of           proved renewal guideline then in effect, and un-
Rent Appeal (RA-89 FMRA) with DHCR.                                                                                                                                    income below the threshold, an owner has until
                                                                                                                                                                                                            intend to re-occupy.                                                      disposal; provide janitorial services for public
                                                      MCIs paid for out of the reserve fund of a coop-       der the same terms and conditions as their origi-
                                                                                                                                                                       June 30 to request that DHCR verify the infor-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Rent charged to a subtenant by the prime                              areas of the building; and keep the building in
3. How are rent increases determined                  erative corporation or condominium association         nal lease. One exception is if tenants are paying
                                                                                                                                                                       mation through tax records.          tenant cannot exceed the legal rent plus up to a                          good repair. The owner is responsible for the
for rent-controlled apartments?                       cannot generally be passed on to tenants living        a preferential rent (see Q8). Owners must use a
                                                                                                                                                                            Rent-controlled units are deregulated begin-
                                                                                                                                                                                                            10% surcharge, allowable only if the apartment                            good maintenance of walls, ceilings, floors, win-
    Increases for rent-controlled apartments are      in regulated apartments in such buildings.             lease renewal form promulgated by DHCR.
                                                                                                                                                                       ning on June 1 of the year after the filing of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                            is furnished. The owner is also entitled to col-                          dows, plumbing, heating, fixtures, doors, func-
figured in two ways: the Maximum Base Rent                Building-wide MCI increases are perma-             8. What is a “Preferential Rent”?                         ICF in which the tenant concedes high income,                                                                  tioning locks on each apartment, owner-installed
(MBR), which is a maximum ceiling for rents,                                                                                                                                                                lect their own 10% adjustment under this year’s
                                                      nent additions to your monthly rent and are cal-           For various reasons, an owner may choose to           or on March 1 in cases where the tenant disputes
                                                                                                                                                                                                            RGB order. The sublet term may exceed the                                 appliances, adequate lighting in public areas,
and the Maximum Collectible Rent (MCR),               culated by taking 1/84th of the total cost of the      charge less than the legal regulated rent (called a       it or fails to respond in a timely manner. Rent-                                                               peepholes on apartment doors, elevator mirrors,
which is the amount an owner can actually col-                                                                                                                                                              term of the lease, provided the lease is renewed
                                                      improvement, dividing it by the total number of        “preferential rent”). As a result of changes to the       stabilized apartments are deregulated at the ex-
                                                                                                                                                                                                            by the prime tenant. Tenants must continue to                             and locks on main doors.
lect from a tenant.                                   rooms in your building and then multiplying that       law made in 2003, tenants who are paying pref-            piration of the lease. Owners are obligated to
    New MBRs are calculated on an individual                                                                                                                                                                maintain their apartments as their primary resi-                          17. Does my superintendent have to
                                                      number by the total number of rooms in your            erential rents may have their rent increased up to        offer the deregulated apartment to the current
                                                                                                                                                                                                            dences and tenants who overcharge a subtenant
basis for rent-controlled apartments every two        apartment. For controlled tenants, MCI increas-        the legal regulated rent upon renewal.                                                                                                                                   live on the premises?
                                                                                                                                                                       tenant. Units regulated as a result of an owner
                                                                                                                                                                                                            are subject to penalties.
years. Owners are required to give notice to ten-     es are capped at 15% of the rent in any one year;                                                                                                                                                                                   For buildings of nine or more units, the su-
                                                                                                             9. What should I do if the owner won’t                    receiving 421-a or J-51 tax benefits cannot be
                                                                                                                                                                                                                You should be aware that the fact that you are
ants when they apply for an MBR increase and          for stabilized tenants, the ceiling is 6%.                                                                                                                                                                                      perintendent must live either on the premises or
                                                                                                             renew my lease?                                           deregulated until the benefits expire.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            subletting your apartment can be used against
tenants can challenge an MBR increase order               DHCR allows owners of rent-stabilized                                                                                                                                                                                       within 200 feet of the building.
using form DHCR RA-94.                                units to collect an additional temporary increase           Owners must offer renewal leases between 90          11. What is the maximum security de- you if an owner brings a primary residence chal-
                                                                                                             and 150 days prior to the expiration of your current                                           lenge (see Q23).                                                          18. What right does the owner have to
    The MCR is calculated on an annual basis          retroactive to the date the tenants were notified                                                                posit an owner can demand?
                                                                                                             lease, or state a reason why they are not renewing            The owner may collect a security deposit lim-                                                              enter my apartment?
and an increase cannot exceed 7.5% annually           of the application. Tenants then have 30 days                                                                                                                           15. Am I allowed to move out of my
(unless there is a Major Capital Improvement                                                                 it. If you don’t receive a timely renewal notifica-       ited to one month’s rent.                                                                                          Owners must have access to your apartment in
                                                      to challenge the application after they receive                                                                                                                         apartment before the lease is up?                       an emergency that might result in damage to the
(MCI) increase – see Q5), and owners must cor-        notice. Do not pay any MCI increase until you          tion, it is a good idea to remind the owner of his            Owners of buildings with six or more apart-            Only senior citizens over age 62 who have
rect serious violations, like no heat or hot water,                                                          or her obligation in a certified letter, return receipt   ments must place all security deposits in interest-                                                            building, such as a broken water pipe or gas leak.
                                                      have received a copy of the order authorizing the                                                                                                                       been accepted for residency in certain adult care           Owners are also permitted to enter apart-
in order to implement the increase.                   increase from DHCR.                                    requested. If no renewal is forthcoming, file an          bearing accounts in a New York State bank. The         facilities or designated senior housing can ter-
                                                                                                             Owner’s Failure to Renew Lease complaint with             owner must provide you the bank’s name and                                                                     ments with reasonable notice to inspect and
4. How are increases determined for                       INDIVIDUAL APARTMENT MAJOR                                                                                                                                          minate a lease without penalty, and then 30 days        make repairs. Your lease may require you to give
                                                      CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS (MCIs): Your                      DHCR (RA-90). Until you receive a signed re-              location. Tenants may receive the interest (less       notice to the owner is still required.
rent-stabilized apartments?                                                                                  newal lease, you cannot be charged more than the          1% for administrative costs) annually, apply it to-                                                            the owner a key to a lock you installed.
   Increases for rent-stabilized apartments           rent can be increased if the owner provides you                                                                                                                             For all other renters, a lease is a legally bind-
                                                      with a new appliance, new equipment or furnish-        rent in your current lease, even after it has expired.    wards rent, or take a lump sum when they move.         ing contract, and tenants may be held liable for
19. What if I don’t receive proper ser-                              with the statutory or lease-signing tenant as                      license, voter registration, or other forms
vices or repairs?                                                    a primary resident for a period of either,                         filed with public agencies; and
    If you have a problem, first speak to the                            1) two years immediately prior to the                              (3) subletting the apartment.
owner or the agent. If they fail to respond,                         death or departure of the tenant;                                      Sometimes owners bring primary residence
put it in writing and send your complaint by                             2) one year immediately prior to the death                     challenges after learning that a tenant owns
certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep                       or departure of the tenant when the family                         property. You are allowed to own property and
records of all correspondence and conversa-                          member is a “Senior Citizen” (62 years of                          live in a regulated apartment but you may have
tions. If the owner does not act in a reason-                        age or more) or a “Disabled Person,” or                            to go to court and prove that the property you
able period of time, consider these steps:                               3) if that person resided with the tenant                      own is not your primary residence.
    (1) Call HPD at 311. The agency will                             from the beginning of the tenancy or since
                                                                                                                                        24. What is the window guard law?
send inspectors and can issue orders to correct                      the commencement of the relationship.
                                                                                                                                            If you have children ten years old or
violations. Be sure to write down your com-                          “Family Member” includes the                                       younger, the owner is required to install guards
plaint number and store it in a safe place.                              1) husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson,                      in the windows of your apartment and in the
    (2) Call my office. I am happy to write                          stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, step-                    public hallways of the building. Windows on
or call the owner on your behalf to follow-                          mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grand-                       fire escapes may not be blocked. Tenants can
up on a complaint.                                                   mother, grandson, granddaughter, father-                           be charged a one-time fee of $10 per guard.
    (3) Seek a rent reduction. DHCR has the                          in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law or
authority to order a rent reduction until ser-                       son-in-law of the tenant or                                        25. May I keep pets in my apartment?
vices are restored. File an application with                             2) any other person residing with the                              If your lease permits pets or is silent on the
DHCR for a Rent Reduction Based on De-                               tenant who can prove emotional and finan-                          issue, you may have pets. But lease clauses
creased Services (RA-81 or RA-84) for your                           cial commitment and interdependence—                               may also ban pets. However, “no pet” clauses
individual apartment (cracked plaster, peeling                       this includes same-sex marriages, domestic                         are void if owners don’t act to enforce them
paint, inoperable appliances, broken plumb-                          partnerships, civil unions, and couples who                        within three months of when the tenant begins
ing, etc.) or with your neighbors for building-                      may not have formalized their relationships                        openly keeping a pet.
wide issues (no heat or hot water, vermin,                           but can demonstrate emotional and finan-                           26. Who is eligible for the Senior Citizen
leaking roof, public areas in disrepair, etc.).                      cial commitment and interdependence.                               Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE)?
Be thorough and specific in describing all the                           At any time a tenant may advise the owner                          The City’s SCRIE program freezes rents
problems. DHCR may determine that certain                            (or the owner may request this information                         for rent regulated tenants and provides prop-
conditions are “de minimis” in nature because                        when the lease is renewed) the names of all                        erty tax relief for the owner in return. To be
not all issues meet the threshold of failure to                      persons residing in the apartment and whether                      eligible, you must be at least 62 years of age,
maintain a required service. You can also re-                        they meet any of the standards listed above,                       named on the lease or be the older spouse of
quest a Code Enforcement Inspection.                                 or, with the passing of time, would be entitled                    the person named on the lease, have a house-
    (4) Go to Housing Court. If your problem                         to succession rights. Your failure to provide                      hold income (after taxes) of $29,000 or less,
is serious, you may want to bring an action                          such information places the burden to prove                        and pay more than one-third of your income
in Housing Court. If your problem involves                           this relationship on a family member who                           in rent. You must apply for SCRIE and recer-
building-wide services, it is often a good idea                      subsequently seeks succession. At any time a                       tify your eligibility every two years. Tenants
to undertake any legal action through a formal                       tenant has the right to add a spouse (including                    who experience a permanent decrease in in-
tenants’ association. Three forms, obtainable                        a same-sex spouse) to a lease.                                     come of more than 20% can apply to have
from the Housing Court, must be completed:
                                                                     22. May I have an unrelated room-                                  benefits recalculated. Tenants with SCRIE
an Order to Show Cause, an affidavit detail-
                                                                     mate who has not signed my lease?                                  cannot lose their eligibility because of Cost
ing the complaint, and an Affidavit of Service.
                                                                         Provided a tenant continues to occupy                          of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to their in-
The $45.00 filing fee per action may be re-
                                                                     the apartment as their primary residence,                          come. Only a fraction of eligible recipients are
covered if you win your case. If you cannot
                                                                     a tenant named on a lease, or a statutory                          receiving SCRIE benefits, so if you or some-
afford the fee, you can apply to have it waived.
                                                                     tenant has the right to have one unrelated                         one you know may be eligible, please call my
Judges can levy fines, issue orders to correct
                                                                     roommate and that roommate’s dependent                             office or call 311 for the City’s Department
violations, and appoint special administrators
                                                                     children reside with them. Immediate fam-                          of Finance.
to manage problem buildings.
                                                                     ily members of the named tenant do not                             27. What are the eligibility require-
20. What are the owner’s obligations                                 count as roommates. However, when more                             ments for the Disabled Rent Increase
where lead-based paint may have                                      than one person is named on the lease,
                                                                                                                                        Exemption (DRIE)?
been used?                                                           tenants do not have the right to have un-
                                                                                                                                            The City’s DRIE program freezes rents
    The Childhood Lead Poisoning Act of                              related roommates. Tenants who take in a
                                                                                                                                        for rent regulated tenants, Mitchell Lama
2003 requires building owners or managers                            roommate are required to notify the owner
                                                                                                                                        residents, tenants living in apartments built
to inquire if a child under seven resides in                         within 30 days. Under DHCR regulations,
                                                                                                                                        with certain mortgage subsidies, and tenants
the apartment, conduct inspections to de-                            an owner can begin eviction proceedings
                                                                                                                                        of Section 213 cooperatives. To be eligible
termine whether there are lead hazards and                           against a tenant for charging a roommate
                                                                                                                                        you must be at least 18 years old, named on
remediate apartments occupied by children                            more than a proportionate share of the rent,
                                                                                                                                        the lease, or the spouse of the leaseholder.
under seven. Owners must also make all                               and the roommate may be able to collect
                                                                                                                                        You also must receive one of the following:
apartments lead safe upon vacancies. The                             damages from a tenant who overcharges
                                                                                                                                        Supplemental Security Income (SSI), So-
law applies to apartments and public areas                           them. Roommates can be added to leases
                                                                                                                                        cial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI),
of buildings that contain three or more apart-                       only with the owner’s consent.
                                                                                                                                        Veterans’ disability pension or other dis-
ments, built before 1960, and those built be-
                                               23. What is meant by “primary                                                            ability compensation, or disability-related
tween 1960 and 1978, where the owner has
                                                                                                                                        Medicaid benefits.
knowledge that lead paint is present. A ten- residence”?
                                                   Tenants not maintaining their primary                                                    As with SCRIE, an applicant’s rent must
ant can file a complaint regarding lead paint
                                               residence in an apartment lose the protec-                                               exceed one-third of household income. Eli-
with HPD by calling 311.
                                               tions of rent regulation. No hard and fast                                               gibility varies by household size and source
21. Who has the right to stay in an definition exists of “primary residence,” but                                                       of income, but in general the income limit for
apartment when the lease-holding courts have considered the following:                                                                  single individuals is $19,860 and $28,668 for
tenant moves away or dies?                         (1) the use of another residence for more                                            households of two or more.
    To claim “succession rights” a family than half the year;                                                                               If you or someone you know may be eli-
member who has resided in the apartment            (2) the use of another address on a tax                                              gible for DRIE, please call my office or call
                                               return, motor vehicle registration, driver’s                                             311 for the City’s Department of Finance.

                                              HeLpfuL pHone numBers and WeB sItes
  City & State Agencies:                                                                                Help for Tenants:
  Rent Control and Rent Stabilization (DHCR)....................1-866-ASK-DHCR                          Assembly Member Kellner’s Community Office ...................212-860-4906
  www.dhcr.state.ny.us                                                                                  Eviction Intervention Services provides legal assistance ......212-308-2210
    Rent Info Line.......................................................................718-739-6400
                                                                                                        Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
    Section 8 Line ......................................................................212-480-6460
                                                                                                        provides legal assistance .............................................. 212-744-5022 x1392
  Housing Court
                                                                                                        Legal Services for New York City provides legal assistance ....646-442-3100
  www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/nyc/housing/ ...........................212-791-6070
                                                                                                        MFY Legal Services provides legal assistance .......................212-417-3700
  NYC Rent Guidelines Board www.housingnyc.com ...............212-385-2934
                                                                                                        Carter Burden Center for the Aging.........................................212-879-7400

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