HCR Simplifies Obtaining MCI Increases for Accessibility Ramps
In May 2016, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) issued a processing directive allowing applications for a rent increase for installing accessibility ramps as a major capital improvement (MCI). An MCI is a permanent increase in rent for a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenant, based on money spent by the owner on building-wide improvements or on replacing a major building system.
Generally, to qualify as an MCI, the improvement or installation must be depreciable pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code, other than for ordinary repairs; be for the operation, preservation, and maintenance of the building; directly or indirectly benefit all tenants; and meet the requirements set forth in the useful life schedule contained in the applicable rent regulations.
Minimum Requirements of MCI Rent Increase for Ramps
According to the processing directive, accessibility ramps (both interior and exterior) will be eligible for MCI rent increases provided they meet the following minimum requirements:
- They provide manually operated and motorized wheelchairs with access to the building and substantially all public and common areas of the building. All entrances to a building need not have ramps, but once an individual is in the building access to substantially all public and common areas can be achieved;
- They provide access to the elevator(s) of a building as well as the ground-floor apartments, and in buildings without elevators the ramps provide access to the building and to all ground-floor apartments of the building;
- They otherwise comply with local building codes relative to the construction of accessibility/handicapped ramps.
How Policy Evolved
The current policy acknowledges the benefits an accessibility ramp can provide to a wide range of citizens and tenants. Years ago, MCI rent increases for accessibility ramps were decided on a case-by-case basis. The HCR would deny rent increases for installing handicap ramps unless there was an order of a governmental body requiring the installation.
This policy was adjusted over time to grant the rent increases if an owner received a complaint from a tenant who was disabled, thus relieving the tenant from having to file a formal complaint with the appropriate human rights agency. Thus, the prior policy was that rent increases for accessibility ramps will be granted where a disabled tenant has made a complaint to the owner of the building or to a governmental agency that deals with accessibility issues.
Now, the HCR found that the prior policy reflected outdated thinking, as ramps have become a standard of modern multiple dwelling construction and building rehabilitation. The directive noted that all generations benefit from the ramps. Babies in strollers, the elderly who have difficulty walking, people with temporary injuries, and disabled visitors all benefit from accessibility ramps.
Considering the range of people who may benefit from accessibility ramps, HCR’s current policy promotes their installation to increase accessibility within buildings for all tenants.