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Know Your Rights
Source: Metro
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Rent Hikes Questioned

"Capital improvements" program has too many loopholes, group says

Housing advocates believe that many landlords are capitalizing on loopholes in laws regarding "major capital improvements" as a way to jack up rents and get old-time tenants out.

Many residents in the city’s more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments face increases after landlords install new boilers, redo hallways or fix roofs.

Dino Rossi, a resident of a once-stately building on Grand Concourse near East 196th in the Bronx, continues to fight rent increases that were approved by the state after the owner repaired a parapet that collapsed and injured two children.

The landlord applied to the state Department of Housing and Community for rent increases to defray $1.8 million worth of the "major capital improvements."

Rent went up on 166 apartments by $67 to $330 a month, based on the number of rooms.

"None of the documents add up," Rossi said. He claims work permits show about $257,000 worth of work. He complained that the work was a repair not an "improvement."

His landlord could not be reached yesterday.

The agency inspects 25 to 30 percent of landlords’ improvements, mostly in response to tenant complaints, spokesman James Plastiras said. Prior to the appointment of Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen in 2007, no inspections took place, he said.

New York is Our Home**, an affordable housing advocacy coalition, delivered a letter to DHCR yesterday, asking that the agency to inspect more landlords’ claims of improvements and to not allow basic repairs to be used for rent increases.

Program meant to keep rents low

Landlords submit about 120 applications a month for rent increases to cover the cost of "major capital improvements." The reimbursement is important to maintaining affordability, a spokesman said. "We don’t want landlords to walk away from their buildings if improvements are too costly." 

**Make the Road New York is on the Steering Committee and is an active member of New York is Our Home.