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How to Respond to Decreased Building Services

Tenants in rent-regulated apartments can file individual and building-wide complaints if the services provided are inadequate. That action could result in a rent reduction.

A building-wide service complaint may relate to lack of elevator service, unsanitary halls, faulty security systems, etc. The process of filing is as follows.

A tenant or group of tenants can file a Statement of Complaint of a Decrease in Building-Wide Services, (DHCR form RA-84); or a tenant can file an Individual Tenant Statement of Complaint (DHCR from RA-81) for decreased service in an individual apartment. To obtain a rent reduction based on service reduction, a tenant must specifically request a rent reduction, or if party to a building-side complaint, must sign the complaint as one of the claimants requesting the rent reduction.

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) screens and dockets complaints and sends the tenant(s) an acknowledgment with the docket number.

A copy of the complaint is sent to the owner with a notice to answer the tenant’s charges. The owner can respond to the tenant’s charges by making the necessary repairs or providing the missing services or stating why the alleged condition was not repaired or remedied. DHCR will send the tenant a copy of the owner’s answer if it is relevant to the determination.

The tenant has 20 days from receiving the owner’s answer to respond to DHCR.

If the tenant claims that the owner’s answer is not accurate, DHCR may order an inspection. Often these questions of fact cannot be resolved without on-site evidence.

If the evidence indicates that the owner failed to maintain required services, DHCR may issue a rent reduction or, if the tenant fails to request a rent reduction, DHCR will direct the owner to restore the services. A reduction in rent, if ordered, will be in effect until DHCR issues an order restoring the rent. In addition, in rent stabilized apartments, the order finding a reduction in services may bar the owner from collecting any further increases in rent until full services are restored.

Statewide, if a tenant lives in a rent stabilized apartment and receives a rent reduction for an individual apartment or a building-wide service decrease, the order becomes effective the first day of the month following the date when the owner was served with the tenant’s complaint. The rent reduction consists of a percentage equal to the guideline increase most recent to when the complain was filed. If more than one tenant applied, the rent reduction affects each tenant who signed the building-wide served complaint application requesting the rent reduction.

If a tenant lives in a rent controlled apartment, the rent reduction based on either an individual apartment or a building-wide service decrease becomes effective the first day of the month following DHCR’s issuance of the order. If more than one tenant signs a building-wide service complaint application, the rent reduction affects all tenants who signed. Rent controlled tenants who did not sign may receive the reduction if building-wide hazardous conditions are found.

If a tenant receives a rent reduction from DHCR and also receives another abatement or a rent credit because of the same conditions, the tenant cannot get both benefits at the same time.

The owner may be ordered to restore full services even if a rent reduction has not been granted. An owner’s failure to comply with the DHCR order requiring restoration of services can result in even greater penalties, such as fines.

To have the rent restored to its original amount, an owner must file Owner’s Application to Restore Rent and/or Collect Rent Adjustment (DHCR form RTP-19). For rent stabilized apartments outside of NYC, the owner must include a copy of a new Certificate of Maintenance of Services with the application. An order will be issued granting or denying the application.

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

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