Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Summary of the Sept. 18, 2019 Meeting and Newsletter

The General Tenants Meeting began with a moment of silence for neighbors we have lost since the last meeting, including Na'ava Ades, Richard Jordan, Carlos Martinez, and Ana Soto. 

Since there was only a single candidate for the opening on our tenant association's executive committee, we acclaimed Andrew Dubin a new member. 

Building issues:

Food waste collection:  If you leave your food waste in a plastic bag (except for compostable bags that you buy), it can't be easily composted. So please dump the contents of your plastic bag into the brown compost bin, and put the empty plastic bag in the small (non-compost) bin next to it. Then close both bins to prevent bugs.

©Susan Susman October 4, 2019

The elevators continue to be a mess.  Please report all problems on a requisition slip at the front desk so there's a written record.

The garage has been filled to way over its legal 114-car capacity.  The NYC Depart of Consumer Affairs issued a violation, and the tenant association contacted ICON.  As a result, the situation has improved. If you see overcrowding again, file a 311 complaint and send the complaint number to CPGTenAssoc@gmail.com.

Tenant movement issues:
  • Housing Justice for All (the coalition that brought us the new rent laws, with the help of the "No IDC NYC" group that changed the State Senate), is launching its 2020 campaign on Wed., Oct. 16 at 6 PM at Washington Irving High School, 60 Irving Place (near Union Square).  We're a member, so you are invited.  If you'd like to participate in HJ4A's weekly phone calls, contact CPGTenAssoc@gmail.com.

The New Rent Law - Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (HSTPA) of 2019. 

Talk about knowing what there is to know!   Legal Aid Attorney Ellen Davidson gave a wonderfully clear presentation based on these slides that she printed out and distributed.  
Some things are answerable. (Click on "read more" for the well-presented Park West Village Tenant Association summary of the new law and more.) Ellen was recently awarded the NY County Lawyers Association’s Public Service Award for her work on this new tenant bill.

She explained that while the State Legislature passed the statute that the governor signed into law, there are two other sources of law:  the administrative agency (NYS Homes and Community Renewal) that enacts regulations to interpret the statute, and court decisions, all yet to come.  Tenants in Housing Justice for All (HJ4A) are working with DHCR (part of NYS HCR) to draft the regulations.

The new law gets rid of incentives for landlords to drive out rent regulated tenants:
§  Apartments can’t be taken out rent stabilization. (No more vacancy decontrol, no more high-income decontrol.)
§  No more 20% rent hike just because an apartment is vacant.
§  An owner can’t add more than $83 over 15 years for improvements to the apartment. That increase ends after 30 years.
§  It’s easier to get apartments back into rent stabilization.

The law reduces major capital improvement (MCI) increases from 6% to 2% of your current rent each year until you hit the full MCI improvement. MCIs end after 30 years. 

All tenants get more protections, such as:
§  If you break your lease, the landlord must try to rent the apartment out instead of charging you for the full lease term.
§  Tenants get more notice of non-payment and court proceedings, and more time to find another apartment if they’re forced out.
§  If a tenant complains of a breach of the warranty of habitability or a duty to repair, the landlord can’t retaliate with eviction. 

Because she was not in the room with the legislators, Ellen couldn’t answer why some tenant demands were granted in full while MCI increases were only modestly improved. Also, it’s not clear whether joining two vacant apartments together will result in a stabilized or unregulated apartment. (If Stellar’s agent asks you to move so they can join your apartment with the vacant one next door, tell them to call your lawyer! Or just say no.) Some State Senators are working to close that and other possible loopholes.  

Thanks to Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, who said he’ll support HJ4A tenant bills. He told us that the Assembly and Senate took a calculated risk, negotiating the new rent bill without Gov. Cuomo. So they had to make sure he would sign it.  He pointed out that more pro-tenant changes can be made in future sessions.    

Before June 14, 2019                  After June 14, 2019
The Rent Regulation Laws had to be renewed every four years by the legislature.

Effective Immediately. The Rent Regulation Laws are permanent so they cannot be changed without an act of the legislature.

Before June 14, 2019                  After June 14, 2019
There were 2 types of
High Rent Vacancy Deregulation: If a vacant apartment’s last rent stabilized rent was $2,774.76 or more, the landlord could take the apartment out of rent stabilization
Effective immediately:  All deregulated is repealed.

But the law does not re-regulate apartments previously de-regulated.  (Tenants who believe their apartments were improperly deregulated can challenge that deregulation.)
High Income High Rent Deregulation – If the rent was $2774.76 and the combined household income was at least $200,000 for each of the previous 2 years, the landlord could apply to DHCR to take the apartment out of rent stabilization.

Repeals Vacancy Bonus &
Longevity Bonus
    Before June 14, 2019                After June 14, 2019
Landlords got an automatic 20% rent bonus when an apartment was vacated and rented to a new tenant. And if there had been no vacancy
increase in 8 years, the landlord could take an additional .6 percent for each year since the last vacancy increase.
Effective Immediately. The vacancy bonus and longevity
increase are repealed. Additionally, the Rent Guidelines Board can no longer issue increases for vacancy leases.

Reforms Rent Increases for
Individual Apartment
Improvements (IAIs)
Before June 14, 2019                   After June 14, 2019
Rents could be increased in apartments for substantial improvements to the apartment such
as new floors, cabinets and appliances.
1/60th of cost could be added in buildings of 35 apts. or more.
1/40th of the cost could be added in smaller buildings.

Landlord could spend any amount and add the costs to the rent permanently.

Landlord spends $50,000 in empty apartment.
Building is 30 units
$50,000/40 = $1250

Landlord can permanently raise the rent  by $1250.

Effective Immediately: The new law limits IAI increases:

For buildings with more than 35 units, the landlord may
take 1/180th of the cost of the improvement.
For buildings with 35 or fewer units, the landlord may take
1/168th of the cost of the improvement.

IAIs expire after 30 years.

DHCR must establish a schedule of reasonable costs
Landlord spends $15,000 in empty apartment
Building is 30 units
$15,000/168 = $89
Landlord can raise the rent $89, but the increase ends after 30 years.

In vacant apartments, no approval or oversight was needed. 
In occupied apartments, the tenant’s signature was needed.
Costs must be ‘reasonable and verifiable’ and work must be done by unaffiliated licensed contractor.

If there are B or C violations, the landlord may not add any money to the rent for an IAI.

Makes Preferential Rents the
Base Rent for Lease Renewal
Before June 14, 2019                   After June 14, 2019
A preferential rent is a rent that is lower than the legal maximum rent.
However, upon renewal the base rent for any allowable increase could be raised by hundreds of dollars.

Effective Immediately. A tenant can keep the preferential rent for as long as the tenant lives in the apartment. The preferential rent becomes the legal rent upon which renewal increases will be based. This applies to a renewal lease that starts June 14, 2019, even if your landlord sent you a renewal lease prior to June 14, 2019 that took away your preferential rent, your rent will be based on the
preferential rent you were paying prior to the lease renewal.

Owner Use Exception to
Rent Regulation
Before June 14, 3029       After June 14, 2019
Landlords could recover an apartment in buildings they owned for the personal use of the landlord or an immediate family member of the landlord. If the landlord sought the apartment of a tenant who was 62 years or older, had lived in the apartment for twenty years or more or was disabled, the landlord had to offer a comparable apartment.
Effective Immediately. A landlord may seek to recover one unit in a building they owned for the use of the landlord or an immediate family member as their primary residence. The landlord must show an “immediate and compelling” need for the apartment. The landlord is barred from seeking the apartment of a tenant who is 62 years or older, has lived in the apartment for fifteen years or more or is disabled. A new cause of action for wrongful eviction can be created against a landlord who causes a tenant to surrender an apartment due to fraudulent statements.

Extends Rent Overcharge
Four Year Look-Back Period to
Six Years
Before June 14, 2019              After June 14, 2019
Previously the statute of limitations for tenants to file for rent overcharges was four years and did not allow looking at the rental history prior to the four-year period from the base date. The base date was four years before the overcharge complaint.
Effective Immediately and applies to pending proceedings:  Extends statute of limitations to six years from the current four years. Allows collection of six years of damages, including six years of trebles rather than the current two. Eliminates DHCR’s ‘safe harbor’ policy that allowed landlords to refund the overcharges when they got caught and then avoid treble damages.
Courts and DHCR may consider ALL rent history that is ‘reasonably necessary’ for a determination.
Allow the tenant to choose their forum.
Owners don’t have to keep old records BUT they destroy them at their own peril.
Four-year rule exceptions – current RSC exceptions are now written into the RSL, plus: A new ‘reliability’ exception which includes whether ‘an unexplained rent increase’ renders a registration ‘unreliable.”
RSC= Rent Stabilization Code

Reforms Rent Increases for
Major Capital Improvements
Before June 14, 2019       After June 14, 2019
Had to be for the operation, preservation and maintenance of the structure.
Had to be depreciable under the Internal Revenue Code.
Had to be building wide and for the benefit of all tenants.
Replacing all kitchens and bathrooms would have qualified.

Effective Immediately. An MCI must be “essential for the preservation, energy efficiency, functionality or infrastructure of the entire building, including heating, windows, plumbing and roofing, but shall not be for operational costs or unnecessary cosmetic improvements.” Maintenance is excluded.

Limits spending to a DHCR “schedule of reasonable costs” that “shall set a ceiling for what can be recovered.”
Costs must be actual, reasonable and verifiable.

Reforms Rent Increases
for Major Capital Improvements
 Before June 14, 2019         After June 14, 2019
Costs claimed for a “major capital improvement” in a building such as a new roof, boiler or elevator could be added to the base rent of every regulated tenant.

Pay Back Period:
Buildings with thirty-five units or fewer = 8 years.
Buildings with more than 35 units = 9 years.
Increases were limited to no more than either 6% or 15% per year.

The landlord could take a percentage increase annually until the aggregate rent increase reached 1/96th or 1/108th of the cost of the improvement.

The increase was permanent.
Pay Back Period:
Buildings with thirty-five units or less = 12 years
Buildings with more than 35 units = 12.5 years

Annual cap is 2% but landlord may add full balance of MCI to rent upon vacancy.

There are no more retroactive lump charges.

Building must be clear of both B and C violations (hazardous violations).
The landlord can take a percentage increase annually until the aggregate rent increase reaches 1/144 or 1/150 of the cost of the improvement

Makes all MCI increase temporary and eliminates the increase after 30 years.
Work inside individual apartments is no longer eligible (e.g., kitchen/bathroom replacement).
The landlord must deduct any government grants and insurance payments.
If a building has less than 35% rent regulated tenants, no MCIs.
Tenants get 60 days to respond to an owner’s application.
Increases go into effect the first of the month after the date of mailing + 60 days.
DHCR must audit and inspect 25% of MCIs annually and generate a report of its findings.

New Provisions That Help All
Tenants –Even Market Rate Tenants
Retaliatory Eviction: The landlord is prohibited from engaging in retaliatory eviction against a tenant who makes a good faith complaint of a breach of warranty of habitability or a complaint of duty to repair under the Multiple Dwelling Law.   The landlord must prove that the eviction is not retaliatory if it occurs within one year rather than six months of the tenant making a good faith complaint. The tenant can recover legal fees if successful.

Notice of Non-Renewal or Rent Increase To Market Rate Apartments: Effective in 120 days. Landlord must give written notice to market rate tenants if the landlord intends to renew the lease for more than 5% of the prior rent or if the landlord does not intend to renew the lease. Failure to provide this notice will allow the tenant to remain in legal occupancy until legal notice has been given.
If a tenant has occupied the apartment for less than one year and has a lease of less than one year, 30 days’ notice of non-renewal is required.
If a tenant has occupied the apartment for more than one year but less than two but has a lease of one–two years, 60 days’ notice of nonrenewal is required.
If a tenant has occupied the apartment for more than two years or has a lease of at least two years, 90 days’ notice is required.

Duty To Mitigate. When a tenant breaks a lease, the landlord must take reasonable and customary actions to re-rent or mitigate by renting at the fair market rent or the tenant’s last rent whichever is lower.

New Provisions That Help 
All Tenants – Even Market Rate Tenants
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Unlawful Evictions. The penalty for illegally evicting or harassing a tenant from an apartment exposes the landlord to prosecution for a Class A Misdemeanor and fines of $1,000 to $10,000.

Holdover Proceedings (staying in the apartment without a lease). The time to place a holdover on the court calendar is extended from 5 to 12 days to 10 to 12 days. The tenant no longer must answer three days before the first court date. If the landlord wins, the tenant’s time to cure (fix the problem) is increased from ten days to thirty days.

Rent Demands must be in writing and landlords must give 14 days’ notice.
Multiple court deadlines are longer allowed.

Notices of Evictions are now 14 calendar days not 5 business days.

Courts May Give Tenants More Time to Find Another Apartment, in certain cases. The court can give up to one year and must consider ill health, exacerbation of an ongoing condition, child’s enrollment in a local school, or any other extenuating life circumstance affecting the ability of the tenant or tenant family to relocate and maintain quality of life.

Tenants in breach of lease cases have 30 days instead of 10 days to fix the breach (get rid of washing machine for example).

Non-Payment of Rent: The landlord, not the landlord’s counsel, must provide the tenant with a five-day notice via certified mail that the tenant’s rent has not been received. While the landlord can issue the rent demand immediately after the mailing of the notice, the landlord’s failure to serve the five-day notice as an affirmative defense to any subsequent non-payment proceedings. The landlord can subsequently issue a rent demand, but it must be in writing, must only be for rent and no other additional charges (air conditioner) and must give a 14 -day notice.  Oral rent demands are prohibited. The time for the tenant to answer a non-payment petition is increased from five days to ten days.

Cooperative and Condominium Conversion: Effective Immediately: Eliminates eviction plans. A non-eviction plan must obtain written purchase agreements from at least 51% of bona fide tenants who reside in the building. Eviction against seniors and disabled tenants in market rate rentals in coops and condos retain rights to rent increases and non-renewal regulations.

Adapted from The Legal Aid Society, Tenants & Neighbors 
Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, June 28, 2019
Kbllp.com, Summary of The 2019 Amendments to the NY Rent Laws

Protection Act of 2019 by NYS Homes and Community 
Renewal, and click here for a list of all the new NYS HCR Fact 


The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) which annually 
sets the rates for rent increases for rent stabilized 
apartments voted to increase rents for the nearly 
one million rent-stabilized units. The rent hikes 
which applies to renewal leases starting on or 
after October 1, 2019 and on or before September 
30, 2020 are:

One Year Renewal Lease = 1.5%  increase                        
Two Year Renewal Lease = 2.5% increase

Tenants whose leases expire by December 31, 2019 
should have begun to receive their renewal leases. 
Examine the leases carefully to confirm that the 
correct percentages and corresponding dollar 
amounts have been calculated and applied correctly.
Returning your lease by certified mail, return 
receipt requested, together with the corresponding 
additional security deposit. Make a copy of the 
entire lease before you mail it.

The NYC Lease Rider For 
All Rent Stabilized Tenants

Tenants report that they have been confused by a 
rider that has been attached to renewal leases.  
This rider is from The State of New York Division 
of Housing and Community Renewal and must be 
completed by the tenant and returned together with 
the renewal lease. Of note, this rider, already in effect f
or a few years, is being revised effective Oct. 24, 2019 
to reflect the changes made by the Housing Stability 
and Tenant Protection Act of 2019.  Any lease being 
offered on or after October 24, 2019 must have these 
updated documents attached. Any lease offered prior 
to October 24, 2019 may be offered with the updated 
documents or those previously in use. Regardless of 
which rider you get, the requirements of the new law, 
the HSTPA, apply.

The only section that must be completed by rent 
stabilized tenants with renewal leases is Section 2 
on Page 3.
See below:

Section 2 – This section needs to be completed 
for vacancy and renewal leases

Lease Rider for the housing accommodation:
(Print Housing Accommodation’s Address and 
Apartment Number)
Lease Start Date: _________________________
Lease End Date: ________________________________
Lease Dated: ___________________________________
The tenant named in the lease hereby acknowledges the 
contemporaneous receipt of the above lease rider for the 
housing accommodation stated above.______________
Print Name of Tenant(s)__________________________
Signature(s) and Date ___________________________
Subject to penalties provided by law, the owner of the 
housing accommodation hereby certifies that the above rider is hereby 
contemporaneously provided to the tenant with the signing of 
the lease and the information provided by the owner herein is 
true and accurate based on its records.

Print Name of Owner or Owner’s Agent___________
Signature and Date