More than a Coat of Paint and a New Stove

George, your statement, “My guess—her studio apartment with a coat of paint and a new stove would get $3,000” (“If Only God Had Money,” George Capsis, WestView News, January, 2019), was based on old business principles, but not accurate about housing.  There are many things, worn out and practically worthless, that you could spiff up a bit and charge a high price for.  An apartment is not one of them.  Tenants have far more legal protections than that, thank goodness.  No landlord in his/her wildest dreams could simply freshen up my apartment and nearly quintuple the rent (which as you noted in your article is now $610.29 and rent stabilized):

First, a coat of paint is a repair for which the landlord cannot charge, whether I’m still there or not.  I think tenants are due a new coat of paint every 3 years, and I haven’t had one since 1976 when I moved in.  Again, it’s a repair that does not merit a charge or rent increase at any time or under any circumstances, tenant or no tenant.

Secondly, a new stove or refrigerator, if the landlord provides it, gives him/her the right to tack on a rent increase of $5 per month per appliance, figured into all rent increases, until the end of time.  I’m going to provide my own new stove and refrigerator, which I have a legal right to do.  He won’t be able to charge anything.

The only way the landlord could possibly raise my rent to $3,000, which he stated he would do in the eviction papers he filed three years ago (actually the landlord’s son, although he claimed to be landlord), would be in a three-step process:

1)  He gets me evicted on some grounds or other.

2)  He then gets an automatic 20% vacancy increase, called by critics a vacancy bonus.  At my current rent, it would be exactly $122.058 per month tacked on to that rent.  That’s a total of exactly $732.348, rounded to $732.49.  Now, to a lot of people that’s still a low rent for a Chelsea studio.  I say not!  But looking at current rents it certainly would appear that way.

3)  He then does a major refurb job, a complete redo, on my apartment, tearing out the walls, etc., which I could not legally ask for as a tenant, but now that l’d be safely out on the street he could do it on his own initiative.  He files paperwork on that refurb job and asks for what I think is called a capital increase, a large permanent rent hike.  He’ll come up with enough expense claims to get the apartment up to $3,000, with that 20% vacancy increase included.  Any rent over 2,377.65 this year (it can change every year) is now off rent stabilization.

The New York City Council this year is going to try to plug up many loopholes that allow landlords to harass tenants out of their homes in order to get those increases (see my article, “City Council Proposes 18 Tenant Protection Regulations,” WestView, January, 2019).  Meanwhile, Albany is talking about eliminating those vacancy-related increases.

Even now, he’d need to do more than that coat of paint and a new stove!

—Carol F. Yost

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