16-unit building with new owner; tenants organization

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Topic: 16-unit building with new owner; tenants organization

Brownstoner December 18, 2012 at 10:07 am

16-unit building with new owner; tenants organization

I am a tenant in a 16-unit building in Bed Stuy, which was sold to a new owner in November.  The building is mixed with some newer tenants and some long-term tenants (30 years or so).  All of the apartments are around 400 sq ft, and rent stabilized, around $1000-1500 (only one apartment approaches $2500, we’re not sure why that one is so high).  The new owner has issued new leases to about half of tenants, all of which appear to be wrong, with incorrect dates (issued early, including some retroactive), incorrect amounts, and discontinuation of preferential rent riders.  The owner is gut renovating 3 vacant apartments, which were renovated prior by the previous owner.  The renovation contractor has not protected their work, and has trashed the public areas of the building.  One neighboring apartment was robbed during the renovation work (while the tenant was asleep in bed!).  Work from the renovation crew caused a full ceiling collapse in another apartment below the work site, which has not been addressed.  Tenants with existing leaks/mold have not been addressed.  Many tenants have called individually to complain to city agencies and management.  Several of the oldest tenants have been offered buy-outs, but most tenants wish to stay here.  We have formed a tenants organization to try to address the many individual issues.  Curious if others have been in this position, either as tenants, or if landlords have tips for our response.

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You should contact both HPD and DOB, but you will find it easier to navigate if you contact any or all of these organizations first:
Housing Court Answers, 212-962-4795, http://www.cwtfhc.org/contact-us
South Brooklyn Legal Services Housing Law Unit (HLU), 718-237-5559, http://www.sbls.org/index.php?id=16
Fifth Avenue Committee, 718-237-2017, http://www.fifthave.org/
Met Council on Housing, 212-979-0611, http://metcouncilonhousing.org/

Have you (either individually or as a group) attempted to sit down with the landlord and discuss the situation?

In addition to suggestions above, you can always call 311 to address immediate issues like improper work or unsafe conditions.
re: new leases which appear to be wrong – I would suggest contacting the DHCR (718) 739-6400 and look at the link below (which will probably be screwed up by the site, so you need to remove extra characters at the end) for info on tenants rights. I’m assuming these are rent stabilized apartments and the new owner purchased the bldg at a price where it only makes sense as an investment with higher rents and is renovating apartments going for High-Rent/Vacancy Deregulation.
re: discontinuation of preferential rent riders. The language typically used: “Temporary preferential rent rider” … “at the option of the Owner, future renewal and vacancy leases …may be based on either such preferential rent or an amount not more than the previously established legal regulated rent as adjusted by the applicable guideline increases…”. If that was the language used, and the previous owner has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s the discontinuation of preferential rent is likely legit, but you could get help from DHCR to confirm.

http://www.housingnyc.com/html/resources/attygenguide.html

Thanks for sharing ideas and links; I will follow up on all of them.  Regarding DHCR, the tenant with strangely high rent has contacted them to review rent history.  I think we should probably get the history for the entire building.  Tenants’ many complaints did result in a visit from EPA, this morning — the demo super said he’ll likely have a fine of $70k or more.  Regarding sitting down with them, this has all unfolded rather suddenly (also over a holiday), so it has not been possible yet.  But I have spoken to the demo team on-site personally multiple times about getting proper protection in place, security, and so on, and I have spoken with their boss and management to tag-team on the issue.  The tenants are planning to put all of the non-demo related issues in writing for the management, and then perhaps we can sit down after that.  Until then, I just hope that no one is intimidated into returning the incorrect leases, or selling out due to lack of repairs.

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