Is it legal in NYC to charge tenants for repairs to building?
June 24, 2014 11:35 AM   Subscribe

My NYC apartment management company is charging tenants for repairs to the roof and outside of the building (the facade). These are not improvements to the units, but to the building. The repairs were finished earlier this year. My apartment is rent stabilized. As I understand it, my next rent invoice will show an extra payment due for these repairs -- although I do not know what the fee will be yet. Before I call 311 and complain, is it legal to charge tenants for building improvements? Thanks in advance!
posted by quixotictic to Law & Government (14 answers total)
What. No.
posted by fontophilic at 11:42 AM on June 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Don't wait to call 311; if your complaint is baseless, they'll say so. You might also call the office for HPD in your borough.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:44 AM on June 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

Please check if it's a repair or an MCI.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

In some cases, yes it is legal to tack on a surcharge. The specifics of your situation matter. Call 311 but don't be surprised to find that there is a legal basis for what the landlord is doing.
posted by dfriedman at 11:46 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

No way that's legal at all. Absolutely not. They're full of it.

Did you accidentally get a letter that was supposed to be sent to owners in the building (if it's a co-op/condo?) Because otherwise I am actually somewhat shocked by this nonsense request.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:46 AM on June 24, 2014

Ah ha! So in addition to the above comments I was immediately informed via email that I might be wrong (which I appreciate).

Anyway, the lesson here (besides not listening to me) is to talk to someone who knows what they're talking about, namely, a tenant's organization, 311, or a lawyer.

I apologize for my knee-jerk answer, and good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:48 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are a number of incorrect answers to this question; there are definitely cases where it is legal in NYC for landlords to tack on surcharges to tenants' rent, even if the tenant is in a rent-stabilized apartment. Please make sure you are getting accurate counsel.
posted by dfriedman at 11:49 AM on June 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

You don't have to complain to call 311. Just call them up, tell them you're a rent-stabilized tenant and your management company is charging a building assessment to your rent.

Just make it super-clear to them that you're not an apartment owner because assessments on owners are a totally normal thing.
posted by griphus at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2014

(Sorry, it might not be called an "assessment" specifically when it applies to a renter so you may want to leave that word out.)
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on June 24, 2014

Definitely call with the specifics before the rent bill comes so that you know your rights ahead of time. And make sure they know you are the renter not an owner.
posted by barnone at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2014

Room317, thanks for the MCI link. I never received notice of the work, so I am going to look into the situation. It is rather confusing! Thanks everyone!
posted by quixotictic at 12:18 PM on June 24, 2014

roomthreeseventeen has it. I direct you also to the fact sheets on the DHCR website that deal with MCI's. Since DHCR is the agency that regulates all rent stabilized buildings in the five boroughs, it provides the best information on the question, including how much can be charged to tenants and how old fixtures have to be before the landlord can claim they must be replaced. If you want to know even more about MCI's, you can hunt down 9 NYCRR 2522 and look at the actual text of the statute.
posted by lassie at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

We've been through this in our building. Our rental building was turned into a luxury condo, and there have been a couple of rounds of MCI's that building attempting to pass along rent increases to the tenants. The first one was replacing all of the windows. While this is a valid MCI, the formula the landlord used to calculate the charge was not fair to renters; we were charged a larger percentage of the cost than the condo owners. A group of tenants challenged the MCI (we had the guidance of an attorney, but my partner drafted and filed all of the paperwork) and successfully lowered the the pass along cost (in the form of rent increase) by about a third. We've had a second MCI regarding brick repointing tied up in the court for about 18 months. So it may be well worth your time to get a couple of neighbors together and chip in to consult a lawyer to see if the MCI is valid.
posted by kimdog at 6:39 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

MCI's would seem to require prior notification to the tenants and the opportunity for the tenants to object (though with no guarantee of success). Additionally, MCI's would seem to be permanent rent increases, not fees or surcharges.

Based on the little bit of information you provided, this wouldn't seem to be an MCI and you should absolutely call 311. If it is a permanent rent increase and you didn't get prior notice, then something isn't right and you should call 311.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:15 AM on June 25, 2014

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