DHCR deals blow for window MCI's.
The Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) seemed to indicate last week, in a ruling that involved Metropolitan Life, that rent-stabilized owners would be responsible for removing and reinstalling air conditioners during window replacement major capital improvement projects (MCI's).
While the state is citing precedent, professionals in the rent-stabilized community were shocked. Dan Margulies, executive director, of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), said: "That has not been their consistent (practice) and it has not been the owner's because the air conditioner is the tenant's property."
In similar situations, such as painting, Margulies said, owners do not move out tenants' furniture or rehang pictures on the wall when the painting job is completed.
Occasionally, he said, owners may want to do the removing and reinstallation of window fixtures for safety reasons or so they can get to the windows quickly.
New York State ruled that Metropolitan Life, one of the largest rent-stabilized owners in Manhattan, would have to remove and install fans and air conditioners during their window replacement job on the 12,000 at their Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town developments on Manhattan's East Side. More than 75 percent of the tenants have window fixtures that will have to be replaced.
The window replacement plan, which was scheduled to begin two days ago, has led to a long and heated conflict between Met Life and its tenants, who are a strong coalition and have the staunch support of local politicians, including Senator Roy Goodman and Assembly Steven Sanders. Sanders last week took credit for raising the installation discussions between Met Life and the Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).
Tenants first raised the issue because many in the Stuyvesant Town units, which are not yet wired for air conditioning, have "Hunter Fans", which fit the existing windows and were manufactured by a company that is now out of business. DHCR's, decision, however, includes air conditioners also.
The agency, in a letter to Met Life's attorneys, said that it was the "long-standing policy" of the agency, and its predecessor, that an owner must remove, and replace tenant's property in their apartments if such removing is necessary for them to complete their MCI.
In a statement last week Met Life refuted the ruling, and said it has not ruled out going to court to appeal the decision.
Met Life also said in the statement that many of the "Hunter Fans" are illegally installed. Each fan will be inspected, they said, and those appliances that fail to comply with city building codes will not be reinstalled.
Tim Ring, spokesman for Met Life told REW, that, in addition to cost, if Met is responsible for reinstalling the fans, they will be held accountable for ensuring that the fixtures meet building and fire codes.
John Gilbert, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, declined to comment, in support of its member Met Life, which is still discussing the ruling with DHCR.
DHCR's decision also states that, as stated in Administrative Review Opinion ART-02263-Q, the owner does not have to alter the window installation to fit the new fan or screen. In the case of Met Life's windows, however, the agency said, they have been informed the "new windows will accommodate 'Hunter fans' which appear to be prevalent throughout the complex."
According to Ring, the windows were not compatible with the fans until Met Life, as a result of an agreement with Assemblyman Sanders, devised a method by which the fans, with the use of a bracket, could be anchored to the original window frame without affecting the thermal properties of the window or the manufacturers warranty.
Met Life and tenants have also come head-to-head on the cost of the windows -- how it would be amortized in their rent -- and the cost of screens to fit the windows. Sanders and Goodman, prompted by their constituents' objections, have both campaigned vigorously for tenant-favorable MCI legislation. Sanders, in his statement announcing DHCR's decision said: "This ruling will quite obviously save tenants both the cost and inconvenience of arranging for this work to be done. It is ultimately a fair and just decision because the tenants had no say in this MCI and should not be put to any undue expense."