Meeting Your Appliance Repair and Maintenance Responsibilities
Many owners supply tenants with appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, microwave ovens, and garbage disposals. And when these appliances eventually break down, you may need to know whether you are supposed to repair or replace the broken appliance. Failing to do so, if required, can result in a Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) ruling that you have reduced services, and the DHCR can order a rent cut.
Several factors are involved in your repair and replacement responsibilities: Who installed the appliance? When was it installed? And what does your lease say about the appliance?
Which Appliances Must You Provide?
Owners of rent-regulated apartments are not allowed to reduce or suspend any services that were furnished to a rent-regulated apartment when it first became subject to rent control or rent stabilization. The date an apartment first became subject to rent regulation is also known as the “base date.” And appliances provided by you or a previous owner on the base date are considered “required services” for the apartment, and you must repair or replace them if they break.
If tenant replaces owner's appliance. If you provide the appliance on the base date, the appliance continues to be a required service that you must provide even if the tenant replaces your appliance with one of his own. In one example, the DHCR ruled that a refrigerator was a required service, since the owner provided one on the base date. It didn't matter that the tenant bought her own refrigerator after the one the owner provided became inoperable. The tenant had purchased it, and deducted its cost from her rent. The DHCR ruled that while the tenant shouldn't have resorted to “self-help” unless absolutely necessary, the owner accepted the reduced rent and was now responsible for the appliance's repair or replacement [Greene: DHCR Adm. Rev. Dckt. No. BH 610050-RO, November 1992].
If owner installs appliance after base date. If you install an appliance after the base date, the appliance becomes a required service for the apartment. You must continue to provide that appliance to the tenant and all future tenants in that apartment.
Repair Instead of Replace
If an appliance you must provide breaks down and can be repaired, you do not have to replace it with a new one. But if you cannot repair the appliance, you will have to replace it.
However, if the tenant wants a new appliance and you agree to install one, you can collect a rent hike of 1/40th of its cost. But the tenant must agree in writing to the installation and the rent increase. Getting the agreement in writing may prevent the tenant from later complaining of a rent overcharge even if a new tenant brings in her own appliances.
In one case, a tenant claimed that the cost of a new stove and refrigerator should not have been included in her first rent because she brought in her own appliances. The district rent administrator ruled against her because, before she moved in, she had agreed in writing to the owner's installation and a rent increase for a stove and refrigerator. Therefore, the fact that the tenant later chose to use her own appliances instead did not bar the owner from collecting a rent increase [Avery: DHCR Adm. Rev. Dckt. No. MB910145RT, July 2000].
Replacement Can Be a Used Appliance
If an appliance you must provide breaks down and you cannot or do not want to repair it, you can replace it with a comparable used appliance that is in good working order. You do not have to install a new one.
In one case, a tenant complained of a reduction of services based on a defective refrigerator. The owner offered to replace the refrigerator with a used one, but the tenant complained that the used refrigerator wasn't comparable to the one she had. The tenant claimed that the used replacement refrigerator had a loose and worn rubber gasket, a loose door-seal, and a yellow-aged exterior. The owner argued that it had offered the tenant a good working unit that had been inspected and approved by a service company. The DHCR eventually ruled for the owner. An owner has the right to determine that it is too costly to repair a tenant's refrigerator, and to replace it with a used one [Goldstein: DHCR Adm. Rev. Dckt. No. TL410025RT, March 2006].
When Is Tenant Responsible for Appliance Repairs?
A tenant is always responsible for repairing and replacing an appliance that is not a required service and that the tenant has installed.
But if the appliance is a required service, meaning that you provided the appliance on the base date, the tenant cannot act unilaterally to replace the equipment, because the owner is responsible for maintaining such services. The tenant must receive permission from the owner by entering into a mutual, consensual agreement. If the tenant did not like the provided appliance, and installed one of his own without the owner's permission, the tenant is responsible for repairing the appliance he installed.
Who Is Responsible for Appliances Left by Former Tenant?
When a tenant installs an appliance that you never provided, that appliance is not a required service. However, that tenant-installed appliance can become a required service if the tenant leaves it behind in the apartment when he moves out and it is still there when the new tenant moves in.
To prevent this appliance from becoming a required service and considered your property, you must remove it before the new tenant moves in or you must disclaim ownership of the appliance in the new tenant's lease. You can do this by using a special rider to the tenant's new lease, like our Model Lease Language: Disclaim Ownership of Abandoned Appliances, to avoid assuming responsibility for any abandoned appliances.
Search Our Web Site by Key Words: required services; appliance; base date
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Disclaim Ownership of Abandoned Appliances|