Landlord v. Tenant: June 2013
DOB Violations: Clothes Dryers in Basement Without Automatic Sprinkler
DOB issued a violation notice to landlord after finding four clothes dryers in the basement without any sprinkler system. DOB's inspector observed four washers and four dryers connected by electric wiring to power sources. Landlord argued that the 2008 building code requirement to install a sprinkler system if there were more than two dryers didn't apply to a 1930s building. The ALJ ruled against landlord, who appealed and won. Building Code Section 903.2, issued in 2008, applied only to "new buildings and structures" and didn't apply to landlord's older building. And retroactive requirements of the 1968 building code didn't apply to landlord's building since it had five floors of residential apartments and was in a "J-2" occupancy group.
- RCFHP, Inc.: ECB App. No. 1200999 (1/31/13)
DOB Violations: Brief Elevator Service Interruption Wasn't Hazardous Condition
DOB issued a violation notice to landlord for failing to maintain an elevator in a safe and code-compliant manner. DOB's inspector observed that the building's only elevator was out of service at the time the notice was issued. Landlord argued that the elevator in its six-story building was stuck for two hours on the date of the violation and that this wasn't a hazardous "Class 1" condition as cited. DOB claimed that the violation severely affected the life and safety of tenants. The ALJ ruled against landlord and fined it $1,000. Landlord appealed and won. In other cases, DOB imposed lesser Class 2 violations where elevators were out of service for months or had ongoing dangerous conditions. Here, the elevator was repaired within hours and there was no evidence of any danger to anyone. The violation was dismissed and the fine revoked.
- 14L Pierre Associates LLC: ECB App. No. 1201019 (1/31/13)
Major Capital Improvements: MCI Rent Hike Granted for Engineering Work
The DRA granted landlord's application for MCI rent hikes based on the installation of a central air conditioning system but disallowed the cost of engineering fees. Landlord and tenants both appealed. Tenants claimed that they should be reimbursed for the cost of installing individual air conditioners during the time that the central air conditioning was inoperative. Landlord sought the disallowed engineering costs. The DHCR ruled against tenants, finding no allowance under the Rent Stabilization Code for reimbursement of tenants' personal expenses. But the DHCR ruled for landlord. Given the complexity of the installation, the engineer's preparation of drawings, specifications, and bid documents were a necessary part of installing the central air conditioning system. The DHCR added the costs for this work into the MCI increase calculation.
- 145 East 16th Street: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket Nos. YF410033RT, YG410035RO (3/6/13)
Rent Overcharge: No Proof of Fraud Warranting Suspension of Four-Year Rule
Rent-stabilized tenant complained of a rent overcharge, claiming that his monthly rent of $1,500 was excessive. The DRA ruled against tenant, finding no overcharge. Tenant appealed and lost. Tenant claimed that landlord's fraudulent conduct inflated the rent prior to the Aug. 16, 2007, base rent date and that therefore the rent history before the four-year base date should be examined. But tenant submitted no proof of any elaborate scheme to systematically deregulate apartments in the building. There was no showing that landlord filed inconsistent rent registrations or otherwise engaged in a pattern of violating the Rent Stabilization Law. A prior heat and hot water complaint filed with the DHCR by tenant or an HPD report listing other apartments lacking heat didn't support tenant's fraud claim. Notably, landlord had repaired the heat and hot water conditions tenant previously complained about.
- Garcia: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. AR210013RT (4/5/13)
Rent Overcharge: Landlord Collected Rent Increases Despite Rent Reduction Order
Rent-stabilized tenant complained of a rent overcharge based on the existence of a prior rent reduction order issued on May 3, 2006. The DRA ruled for tenant. Because the rent had not been restored by a later DHCR order, the rent reduction remained in effect and the rent remained frozen. Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that tenant paid a preferential rent when she moved into the apartment that was less than the prior tenant's rent. Landlord also had lowered tenant's rent in 2009 to the amount charged in 2004. But the legal base date rent was $1,440 and the rent reduction order in effect on that date limited collection of monthly rent to $1,312. So tenant was entitled to a refund of an overcharge equal to the monthly difference between these amounts. The assessment of triple damages for willful overcharge also was appropriate under these circumstances.
- Dorchester LLC: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZD710063RO (3/5/13)
Rent Reduction Ordered: Rent Reduction Based on HPD Bed Bug Violation
Rent-stabilized tenant complained in February 2011 of a reduction in services based on bed bugs in her apartment. The DRA ruled for tenant, based on an HPD violation dated Nov. 12, 2010, finding bed bugs. Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord claimed that the apartment was sprayed monthly and that neither landlord nor its exterminator had found evidence of bed bugs in tenant's apartment. But landlord failed to submit any proof that the HPD violation had been corrected or cleared. Landlord also argued that it never received tenant's "prior notice" letter before receiving notice of her DHCR complaint. Tenant had attached a copy of this letter to her DHCR complaint. The DHCR found that it didn't matter whether tenant sent the prior notice letter in this case because these letters weren't required for emergency conditions. Bed bugs are considered an emergency condition. And HPD had issued a class B hazardous condition violation to landlord.
- 430 East 56th Street: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZJ410021RO (3/6/13)
Required Services: Landlord Can Install Telephone Intercom System
Landlord asked the DHCR for permission to modify a required service for rent-stabilized tenants. Landlord sought to change the existing standard intercom system with a telephone-based system. The DRA ruled for landlord on condition that landlord pay for the costs of installing landline telephones in apartments that didn't have them, and that landlord reduce tenants' rents by $15 per month to compensate tenants for the cost of basic landline service. Landlord appealed, arguing that tenants could use their existing cell phones or landlines to operate their intercoms from any location in their apartments. The DHCR ruled against landlord. Tying intercom service to a cell phone wouldn't be a reasonable substitute service. A landline is physically in the apartment at all times, providing anyone in the apartment at the time with intercom service.
- 70 West 95th Street: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. ZF410018RO (3/15/13)