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May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 2 comments

Last night I went to a meeting put together by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. Mr. O’Donnell presented information on why we need to get the Rent Stabilization laws renewed and improved by June 15, 2011. I think it goes without saying this is a first step as to what needs to be done in order to have protections in place for Rent Stabilized Tenants. However I think it is extremely important to keep up the pressure to correct the system that governs these laws, particularly DHCR. If the laws pass again as we all think they will, we will be left with all the problems of enforcing these laws.

 It occurred to me that the Landlords are not to upset with the current situation because many of them do not abide by the rules to begin with. Mr. O’Donnell said he is personal friends with the new commissioner of the DHCR. All well and good, however I do not care that he knows this persons Wife and kids. I care that this person does his job in a fiduciary manner protecting the rights of all involved.

Having Rent Stabilization renewed without fixing the governing body is lowering the bar. The administration of the laws needs to be corrected. A start is to look at my agenda (below) and look to others who have been trying to get these laws adhered to in the past. June 15 is just the first step. We need to fix the entire problem.

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What could be simpler?

I have been confused by the way the courts and DHCR debated over whether buildings which receive J-51 benefits are Rent Stabilized. Below is a link to Page 16 of the J-51 Guidebook. It is clear and simple. 

 

On January 16, 1996 DHCR issued an Opinion letter to Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP, here is a copy of the Opinion Letter from the DHCR. This Opinion letter created the confusion over whether or not buildings receiving J-51 benefits were subject to Rent Stabilization. Read (link below) this opinion and Kudos to you if you can make heads or tails of the language they use.

 

The opinion letter refers to NYC Administrative code 11- 242 and 11-243 (link below). Nowhere in these documents do I find language that affirms a stance of the RSL not being activated as a result of a building obtaining J-51 benefits. It does say in 11-244 section 6d ii “all dwelling units, except owner occupied units, shall be subject to the emergency housing rent control law or the local housing rent control act or the tenant protection act of the nineteen hundred seventy –four, or any local laws enacted pursuant thereto or the rent stabilization law of nineteen hundred sixty-nine;” Pretty clear to me.

 

I cannot find specific language in Real Property Tax Law Section 489 that is specific to this issue. I will post it when I locate it. Below is a link to a report done by Eastern Consolidated synopsis of the Decision and its implications regarding J-51 and Stuyvesant Town.

Links:

DHCR Opinion Letter – DHCR opinion letter dated January 16, 1996 re J-51

Page 16 J-51 Guide book – Page 16 J-51 Guide Book

NYC Admin Code 11-243 and 11-244NYC Admin Code Pt. 1 and 11-243 

NYC Admin Code Pt. 1 and 11-244

Eastern Consolidated synopsisThe Ruling on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village_November 2009

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My Agenda

April 13, 2011 2 comments

As I have presented my case to other’s I find that there is an open question. What do I want? I do want my case to be heard of course, and I hope for a favorable outcome. What I would like to see are some of the problems with the current system corrected. I have come up with an agenda of four key items I believe need to be changed in the Rent Stabilization Law’s and the DHCR. They are:

1. Abolish the four year rule.

2. All leases are to be accompanied by a rider setting out Tenants rights whether RC, RS or Free Market.

3. Landlords are to be prosecuted by the NYC District Attorney’s office when there is a case of Fraud.

4. DHCR to process cases within a three month window.

These are the key items. If you click on this link (Altschuler RSL Agenda) you will get a more thorough version with my reasoning for each item.

 

Let me know what you think via commenting on this post and my other posts by leaving a comment.

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Fear, Power and Ignorance

April 6, 2011 1 comment

Since putting up this blog I have spoken to many people about Rent Stabilization. I find there is a common thread in the relationship between Landlords and Tenants. This is fear, power and ignorance. Here is how I have seen this applied.

When you are looking for an apartment most people do not know to ask about an apartment’s Rent Stabilization Status. This is simple ignorance of the governing rules. Those that do know about Rent Stabilization might be leery of asking about an apartment’s status in fear of getting rejected as a potential tenant. Here we have fear. In both these situation the Landlord holds the power. Weather real or not you are asking a Landlord to deal with you fairly and in many cases the landlord chooses not to. They wield the power.

Whenever there is an imbalance of power in a relationship it is an open door for abuse. This is what I believe is the current atmosphere in NYC regarding the relationships between Landlords and Tenants.

Categories: Uncategorized

I have updated the site.

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I hope it is easier to navigate now. I moved all the information that was in the drop down menu originally into the body of the post. I hope this makes the information easier to consume.

Categories: Uncategorized

478 Central Park West – My Law Suit – Join me

March 19, 2011 6 comments

Revised Saturday March 19th 2011 at 4:15PM

The issue is Rent Stabilization and Rent overcharges.

Our Landlord has been representing 478 Central park West as a decontrolled property when in fact the building should be a Rent Stabilized.

You too could be owed for rent overcharges. In the least you are due a Rent Stabilized apartment and the protection provided by Rent Stabilization.

Below are the details.

This Blog is to inform other tenants of 478 Central Park West about what I am going through with Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP with my apartment at 478 Central Park West.

Please feel free to make comments and share any information you have on this subject by clicking on the comment button above.

Below items in Bold is information from the Websites of either the DHCR, Rent Guidelines Board or others. I will note all sources in parenthesis.

In 2005 a neighbor suggested I was probably paying too much rent. He further suggested I get a statement showing the rent history of my apartment from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). I did this. What I saw in the report was that the rent on my apartment went from $422.04 as a rent controlled apartment in 1995 to a High Rent Vacancy exempt apartment in 1996, with no rent noted. In 1997 the rent is noted as a Lease renewal and the rent was now $2,152.50. The landlord also registered this Rent and noted it as RS or Rent Stabilized. The rent change is noted under “Apartment Reason for Change” as “Lease Renewal MCI (Major Capital Improvement). However the rent was not noted in the initial year of the lease, therefore there is no way to know how the Landlord did the math. I called the DHCR and asked what the calculation was to bring an apartment’s rent from $422.04 to $2,152.50 and was told I could not contest the rent as I had not brought this issue to their attention within four years of getting my lease. I asked the DHCR when there was a discrepancy in a Landlord Rent Filings how they could get away with contrary registered rents. The DHCR representative told me that as long as four years have passed since the initial registration whether or not the landlord’s statements were correct the landlord was then free of responsibility for a potential false statement. I dropped the issue as it seemed the Landlord was protected by this statute of limitation.

I later learned that Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP should have issued me a “Rent Stabilization Lease Rider when I signed my initial lease. Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP did not however acknowledge that my apartment was rent stabilized and maintained the apartment was a high rent decontrolled apartment.

To the best of my knowledge Mann Realty / Jobman 478/480, LP has never provided tenants with a “Rent Stabilization Lease rider” see NYC Rent Guidelines Board website for more information on this. If I had gotten this lease rider or if any of you other tenants of a Mann Realty / Jobman 478/480, LP Buildings had, we would have known our building was Rent Stabilized.

Here is what the Rent Guidelines Board says about the Rent Stabilization Lease rider:

By law, an owner must include a copy of the Rent Stabilization Rider with a tenant’s vacancy and renewal lease. The Rider describes the rights and obligations of tenants and owners under the Rent Stabilization Law. The Rider is only informational; its provisions do not modify or become part of the lease. Nor does it replace or modify the Rent Stabilization Law or Code, or any order from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) or the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.

The Rider informs a rent stabilized tenant signing a vacancy lease of the legal regulated rent in effect immediately prior to the vacancy, and explains how the present rent was computed.

The owner must provide all rent stabilized tenants with a copy of the Rider as follows:

1.      As an attachment to every vacancy lease signed by a new tenant on or after December 1, 1987;

2.     As an attachment to every “Renewal Lease Form” (DHCR Form RTP-8).

To view the Rent Stabilization Lease rider click here – Rent Stabilization Lease rider (Source DHCR)

In 2008 the Stuyvesant Town J-51 lawsuit came to my attention. The point of the lawsuit was the law states a building which receives J-51 tax exemptions / abatement’s would remain rent stabilized regardless of the high rent clause (apartments $2,000.00 and above) and decontrol due to a tenant making more than $175,000.00. I asked around and eventually discussed this matter with a law firm. I was told my building had received J-51 benefits and should be rent stabilized. In 2008 the Stuyvesant Town case was on appeal and I was leery of engaging a lawyer when the case could still be decided in favor of the Stuyvesant Town Landlord. However when the case was upheld in 2009 I engaged a law firm to represent me.

Here is what DHCR notes (Fact Sheet 41 Tax Abatement) about J-51 and its impact on buildings: (Source DHCR) Click here to view Fact Sheet 41 Tax Abatement

J-51
This program, administered by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the NYC Department of Finance (DOF), gives tax benefits to owners who rehabilitate qualifying systems in existing buildings. Examples of systems are boilers, windows, plumbing, electricity and roofs. The receipt of the tax benefits places the building under rent regulation, even if it is less than six (6) units and previously was not under regulation.

Tax benefit expiration and termination of rent regulation

The vast majority of rent regulated buildings were built before 1974 and contain six or more apartments. Many of these buildings receive J-51 tax benefits for rehabilitation work. The tax benefit period can vary, but frequently it lasts for 12 years. In these buildings, the expiration of the tax benefit period does not affect the status of the apartments, which will remain under rent regulation at the end of the tax benefit period and thereafter.

However, there are buildings that were either built or gut renovated since 1974 or contain less than six apartments that were placed under rent regulation only because the building received J-51 tax benefits. In these buildings, owners are required to include in each lease and lease renewal a notice in at least twelve point type informing the tenant that the apartment shall become deregulated upon the expiration of the last lease entered into during the tax benefit period. The notice also needs to state the approximate date on which such tax benefit period is scheduled to expire.

The failure to include this notice in all leases for the tenant in occupancy at the time the tax benefits expire means that the apartment will remain under rent regulation and the tenant can continue to renew his or her rent stabilized lease. The apartment remains rent regulated until the tenant vacates the apartment.

The inclusion of the required notice in all leases deregulates the apartment at the end of the last lease entered into during the tax benefit period.

Here is what the NYC HPD website says about J-51 Benefits:

  1. 34-year (30-years full + 4-years phase out) or 14-year (10-years full + 4-years phase out) exemption from the increase in real estate taxes resulting from the work. Affordable housing projects generally get the 34-year exemption while other projects get the 14-year exemption;
  2. Abatement of existing real estate taxes by up to 8 1/3% or 12 1/2% of the cost of the work each year for up to 20 years. Affordable housing projects generally receive the 6% abatement while other projects get the 4% abatement.

Privately-financed projects in Manhattan south of 110th Street and co-ops and condominiums generally receive some limited benefits. All rental units become subject to rent stabilization or rent control for the duration of the benefits. In rental buildings, the landlord must also waive 50% of the rent increase which would otherwise be allowed under rent stabilization as a result of the work. (I have added the bold and underlines)

Here is the link to the HPD website and pertinent information on J-51 benefits: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/developers/j51.shtml

Initially it was my lawyers thought that there were substantial rent overcharges; however as the lawyers dug into the case they felt that due to the four year statute of limitations imposed by the DHCR my rent was close to correct.

Here’s the rub.

We come back again to a tenant not being able to go back further than four years to make a claim. This is a DHCR rule and it severely hampers a tenant’s ability to make a claim for a true amount of overcharges if he or she is past the four year date of the lease commencing. This four year restriction never felt right for me. To me it allows a Landlord to make false statements and should the four years pass then they are free of responsibility for registering a false rent.

I find that most tenants do not know of this rule. At 478 CPW we have a Landlord who has misrepresented a building as a Fair Market rental when it is not. It should be a Rent Stabilized building by virtue of what the rents should be and even if the rents are over $2,000.00 we are Rent Stabilized by virtue of the building receiving J-51 benefits.

I ask how one is supposed to know of these laws. This information is not common knowledge. I stumbled upon this information, and when I did I could not contest the rent because of the four year rule.

Many of us do not want to confront our Landlords. We are fearful of the power a Landlord wields with us the tenant. These are our homes and anything that threatens our homes  I think we do not want to upset the Landlord. I think most people tread lightly with their Landlords.

As my case went on, Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP delayed on discovery, I brought up to my lawyers the issue of the original cost of renovation of the building and how I felt the Landlord increased the rent incorrectly. Again my lawyers stated that the four year law came into effect and protected the Landlord. But in this particular conversation they noted that if there was intentional fraud involved on the part of the Landlord there was a case called Grimm vs. DHCR that challenged the four year rule when fraud was involved. At that time Grimm vs. DHCR was on appeal. In September of 2010 Grimm was upheld. Now I had a much better case against Mann Realty / Jobman 478/480, LP to get the correct rent on my apartment as well as the overcharges back to the origination of the lease, and a rent stabilized apartment as well.

Click here to view Grimm vs. DHCR a copy of the decision of October 19th, 2010 . We are now pursuing getting my apartment Rent Stabilized and also going after what should have been the correct initial base rent for my apartment.

Above I have a tab which shows a default formula used by the DHCR for calculating a rent when the Landlord has charged an incorrect rent at the onset of a lease. In this case the DHCR uses a rent from a similar apartment and that rent becomes the base rent.

Click here to view Rent overcharge Default Calculation this chart shows a DHCR default formula as noted above.

I am also attaching a spreadsheet showing how the rent should have calculated using the pertinent RGB orders #27 through #32. This chart shows the progression of the rent using these orders.

Click here to view Spreadsheet showing Rent Overcharge and Penalties using RGB orders 26 to 31.

Dealing with the DHCR is a difficult task. They seem to be on the side of the Landlord and not the public. There does not seem to be a level of accountability. By example they are not liable for policing whether or not Landlords are charging proper rents. This in my view is an invitation to make false statements by Landlords. It is the proverbial “Fox in the Hen house” scenario. With the four year rule it becomes a waiting game for Landlords to wait out the four years and then get a bonus should they not be discovered registering a incorrect rent. There is no fiduciary responsibility. This is the statement at the bottom of every DHCR form “ Registration Apartment Information” “DHCR does not attest to the truthfulness of the owner’s statements or the legality of the rents reported”. Given this DHCR absolves itself of any responsibility regarding how Landlords register a legal rent. I ask again who is watching the store here.

Click here DHCR Report for My Apt from the DHCR

You will see registrations going from Permanently Exempt to Rent Stabilized (2x) to Permanently Exempt to Rent Stabilized to Permanently Exempt. The rents for my apartment go up then down then up and up.

Another curious item I came across is when Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP rented my apartment for the first time after it was rent controlled they should not have leased the apartment. Why? NY law forbids renting an apartment that has not had its construction work signed off. Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP first lease after the apartment was Rent Controlled was registered as beginning on 9/15/95. The work done to this apartment was not signed off until 1/6/97 (Click here to view the DOB Job 100629278 Application Detail with my yellow highlights). DOB requirements state a apartment cannot be occupied until the work is signed off (Click here to view Provision of Law 27-217 )

You can also see that Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP when filing with the DOB maintained by their submission of a PW-1 they did not have to notify the DHCR regarding the status of the building. This indicates to me the beginnings of avoiding the correct filings with the DHCR. The regulations regarding filing out a PW-1 is to notify the DHCR if a building contains Rent Controlled and Rent Stabilized apartments (Click here to view pw 1 Plan Work Approval Application page 5 filing info in Yellow).

When I went to the DHCR, I found there was a lack of cooperation. I was told I was not entitled to see the paperwork submitted by Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP when they did the conversion of the building. On a later visit to the DHCR they told me they do not get information for building owners unless there is a claim that the Landlord was overcharging.

There could be some good news. My case against Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP is a class action suit, so if the class is certified by the courts and the outcome is favorable then all tenants may eventually be covered by my case. However the more tenants that are vocal and make claims and ask for a stabilized lease will make the overall case stronger.

Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP has responded to our court papers and in it they reveal how they deal with individuals and an their ability to make claims that lack any basis in Law or reality. Here are a few gems.

  • They state this is not my primary residence. It is.
  • They state that my apartment is not part of the J-51 abatement. To the best of my knowledge J-51 abatement’s are not subject to segregation by apartments.
  • They state that “the apartments” had outside dimension changes. At the time in question this is a patent lie. No apartments were combined or separated in the plans they filed with the DOB in 1993. In fact they way they renovated the apartments decreased the floor area by making original 5” thick walls 12” thick walls thus reducing the overall square footage of my apartment by 200 SF.
  • They maintain I acknowledged and agreed my apartment was not subject to rent stabilization. I wonder how they notified me and what I signed to note my acknowledgment.
  • My favorite item is “ Any award of retroactive damages, a declaration that plaintiff’s apartment is subject to rent stabilization, or other relief would violate defendant’s rights under the United States Constitution and the new York State Constitution”.  One has to wonder what these rights are. Are they the right to overcharge a tenant? I truly wish the lawyers for Mann Realty Associates / Jobman 478/480, LP were specific as I would love to know.

Here are some additional items of Interest:

Typical Lease renewal letter for my apartment from Mann, Click here to view my  September Renewal letter 2005

Copy of MCI filing on 478 Central Park West. Click here to view MCI Rent Increase

The page from the NYC list of Rent Stabilized buildings showing 478 as listed. Click here to view 2009 Manhattan Bldgs 478 CPW page 157

Copy of the NYC Department of Finance J-51 Benefit History Summary for 478 CPW in tax year 99/00. Click here to view http___webapps.nyc Tax Year 99-00

Pages 16 and 17 of the J-51 Guidebook, This shows a clear statement regarding how buildings receiving J-51 benefits remain stabilized. Click here to view Page 16 and 17 J-51 Guidebook

These are the orders issued by the Rent Guideline Broad that sets how much Landlords can charge for rents. It sets various percentages for Rent Increases and other items like heating charges. Click here to view RGB – Orders 3a, 26 – 32

I would like to open this discussion up to the other tenants of buildings related to Mann Realty Associates. They have six other buildings that are currently receiving J-51 benefits. These buildings are 207 Central Park North, 241 West 110th Street, 400 West 153rd. Street, 480 Central Park West, 217 Central Park North and 352 East 51st. Street. There are drop down menus for each of these buildings showing the Department of Finance “J-51 Benefit History Summary” and a page from J-51 building list showing these building are receiving J-51 benefits.

Get involved and see if you are being treated correctly. If you have any information that you feel could be helpful please send it to 478cpw.nyc@gmail.com or post it to this blog by making a comment (see comment button above).

Here is a cover my rear note. I am not a lawyer. Check what I have written above with your own lawyer.

Below I invite you all to make comments and ask questions. I will update this blog as I get new information.

Categories: Uncategorized