A tenant who experiences a decreased service in an individual apartment or in the building needs to first contact the owner in writing, as detailed in the next paragraph. If that does not resolve the problem, the tenant may file a complaint with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). For an individual complaint a tenant may use an "Individual Tenant Statement of Complaint of Decrease in Services" (DHCR Form RA-81) form for complaints about conditions in the apartment. For complaints involving a decrease in building-wide services, a tenant or tenant representative may file a "Statement of Complaint of a Decrease in Building-Wide Services" (DHCR Form RA-84).
A tenant must use the correct form for their complaint and attach a copy of their letter to the owner or agent with proof of mailing or delivery (for example: certificate of mailing, certified mail receipt or signed receipt from owner or agent acknowledging personal delivery). Complaints must be filed with DHCR not less than 10 days nor more than 60 days from the date the letter was written to the owner.
However, for some emergency conditions, prior written notice to the owner is not required before filing a complaint with DHCR. These emergency conditions are vacate order ( 5 day notification), fire ( 5 day notification) no water apartment wide, no operable toilet, collapsed or collapsing ceiling or walls, collapsing floor, no heat/hot water apartment wide (violation required), broken or inoperative apartment front door lock, all elevators inoperable, no electricity apartment wide, window to fire escape (does not open), water leak (cascading water, soaking electrical fixtures), window-glass broken (not cracked), broken/unusable fire escapes, air conditioner broken (summer season). Complaints to DHCR on the appropriate DHCR form that cite any of these emergency conditions will be treated as a first priority and will be processed as quickly as possible. It is recommended that tenants use a separate DHCR form for any problematic conditions that are not on this emergency condition list.
The DHCR screens and dockets these applications and sends the tenant(s) an acknowledgement with the complaint/docket number.
A copy of the tenant's application/complaint is sent to the owner and the owner has 45 days in which to respond (5 days for vacate orders and fires).
If the owner's answer is relevant to the determination, DHCR may send a copy to the tenant who has 21 days from receiving the owner's answer to respond to the DHCR. However, DHCR in the alternative may schedule an inspection.
If the evidence indicates that the owner failed to maintain required services, the DHCR can issue a written order that directs the owner to restore services and reduces the rent for the apartment. The order will stay in effect until the owner applies to DHCR and receives a Rent Restoration Order that finds that services have been restored. DHCR may not issue an order concerning items which were not contained in the tenant's letter to the owner.
If an owner has failed to restore services and/or correct the conditions specified within 30 days after the issuance date of the order, the tenant may file a "Tenant Affirmation of Non-Compliance" (DHCR Form RA-22.1), to request that a compliance proceeding be initiated. The tenant is also authorized to reduce their rent in accordance with the order.
If an owner has attempted, but been unable to obtain access to the subject housing accommodation to correct the service or equipment deficiency, the owner should state this in the response. Upon receipt, the DHCR may direct an inspector to accompany the owner or the owner's agent to the housing accommodation to determine whether such access is being provided. In order for the DHCR to coordinate the inspection, the owner should indicate that access has been denied in the response submitted to the DHCR and should include copies of two letters to the tenant attempting to arrange for access. Each of the letters must have been mailed at least eight days prior to the date proposed for access, and must have been mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested. Exceptions to such requirements for inspection may be permitted under emergency conditions, where special circumstances exist, or pursuant to court order.
The tenant's service complaint will be denied or the owner's rent restoration application will be granted, where a tenant fails to provide access at the time arranged by the DHCR for an inspection.
The effective date for rent stabilized tenants is retroactive back to the first day of the month following DHCR's service of the complaint on the owner. For rent controlled tenants, the effective date is the first day of the month after the order is issued.
The amount of the rent reduction for rent stabilized tenants is generally the most recently charged renewal lease guideline increase (See Example #1 below). For rent controlled tenants, the amount is a dollar amount set by DHCR (See Example #2 below).
Ms. Williams, a rent stabilized tenant, receives a rent reduction order for a broken window on February 15, 2008. It has an effective date of December 1, 2007.
She has a two year renewal lease in effect which commenced on November 1, 2007 at a rent of $951.75 ($900 + 51.75 (5.75%)). Prior to that renewal lease guideline increase, her rent had been $900.
On March 1, 2008, Ms. William's rent will be reduced to $900, effective December 1, 2007. If the owner does not file a Petition for Administrative Review (PAR), he or she will also owe Ms. Williams a $51.75 refund for each of the three months of December, January and February; totaling $155.25. Said refund for these three months is not immediately collectible if the owner files a PAR, however, the rent remains reduced to $900.
Ms. Cohen, a rent controlled tenant receives a rent reduction order for a broken window on March 15, 2008. Her Maximum Collectible Rent (MCR) is $724.
The order states the rent reduction is for $8.
On April 1, 2008, Ms. Cohen's rent will be reduced to $716 ($724 - $8). There is no retroactivity and she is in not owed a refund for previous months.
Owners or Tenants can submit affidavits by a licensed architect or engineer to support their complaint, answer or application
See Policy Statement 96-1, Third Party Certification for a complete discussion. Essentially, an owner supplied affidavit that conditions have been corrected can be rebutted by the tenants by the submission of a statement by at least 51% of the complaining tenants that the conditions still exist or by a tenant submitted counter affidavit by a licensed architect or engineer.
For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your Borough or County Rent Office.
Last updated on 02/28/10