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A review of '92 and wish list for '93.

Fantasy: You meet Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Commissioner Angelo Aponte at the water cooler at the DHCR. Here is your opportunity to give Mr. Aponte the landlord's perspective.

You shout to Mr. Aponte above the din "Want to hear my wish list for 1993?" Here's what such a list would reflect to introduce a measure of reality to the DHCR:

1. Repeatedly deny the Services Unit access to their offices and then tell them they won't get paid because they didn't show up for work

2. Send the Harassment Unit on a class trip to Housing Court;

3. Make the director of the Services Unit dig out all the champagne-colored bathroom tiles in the tenant leader's bathroom and replace them with off-white tiles

4. Ask the Petition for Administrative Review (PAR) Unit find the certified mailing receipt for a PAR you filed six years ago in a file within 20 days

5. Force every DHCR inspector to spend 2 weeks as a superintendent at a building cementing hairline cracks in steps, scraping peeling paint from bulkheads and picking up litter on the lawn

6. Force the head of the Rent Overcharge Unit to convince a tenant to sign a renewal lease at the higher rate when a service reduction order is in effect

7. Get an agency response to a request for records within the statutory five days rather than 15 months

8. Have the agency decide a Petition for Administrative Review without the need for a Supreme Court Order mandating that it do so

9. The agency voluntarily stops issuing a new docket number every time a tenant makes a query about an existing complaint

10. The agency voluntarily stops making landlords respond to duplicate complaints

Bleak Outlook.' On a more serious note, 1992 closed on a foreboding note-namely, the issuance of DHCR Policy Statement 92-3. This policy statement threatens the validity of every annual registration ever completed by an owner.

This Policy Statement requires proof of mailing said registrations such as a registration receipt or original affidavit of service when no such requirement exists in the Rent Stabilization Law or the Rent Stabilization Code.

The agency is making findings of treble damage overcharge for failure to prove service of annual registrations on the agency. The stakes are large and the agency has essentially become a lottery for the tenants. However, this lottery has much better odds than winning " LOTTO."

Bright Outlook: DHCR loosens compliance standards.

In 1992 the agency continued to exact drastic penalties from landlords with building-wide rent rollbacks for routine maintenance items, e.g. peeling paint on bulkheads, hairline cracks in stairs, making it more and more difficult to collect the full rents. In 1992 the industry hailed the agency's divestiture of certain service complaints, namely elevator complaints (referred to the New York City Department of Buildings, D.O.B.), dirty water (referred to New York City Health Dept.) only to learn that the agency was backpedalling on its position and re-considering some of the favorable orders it had issued.

At this time we have learned that the S.C.O.R.E. Unit (Services, Compliance, Owner Restoration, Enforcement) continues to refer elevator complaints to the D.O.B.

This is good news if the trend continues.

The other good news for the future is that the agency now only requires 50 percent owner compliance for building-wide service complaints. This test greatly reduces the onerous burden on owners to keep a building in perfect shape, given normal maintenance problems, tenant-created mischief or vandalism by third parties.

It is important that owners remind the agency of this new standard of compliance when responding to tenant service complaints.

Further, in 1993 owners should be zealous putting the DHCR on notice when tenants deny access. A wily tenant files a complaint, then denies access for repairs in order to obtain a healthy rent reduction. Follow the procedure under DHCR Policy Statement 90-5 as follows:

1. Send a letter requesting access at least eight days in advance (by regular mail)

2. Send second letter requesting access at least eight days in advance Coy certified mail, return receipt requested)

Notify the agency that you have followed Policy 90-5 to no avail and that you seek a dismissal of the service complaint based on the tenant's failure to give access. It's an inexpensive way to resolve a complaint.

Make it one of your New Year's resolutions to seek attorney's fees when you prevail in Supreme .Court proceedings against the agency. Article 86 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (c.770;L. 1989) is relatively new but slowly the victories will come in. Speak to counsel to see if you are eligible as not all owners meet the criteria of the law.

The legal battle cry for 1993 is "fight for what is right." The concerted effort, of vigorously pursuing all legal remedies as well as lobbying in Albany may yield more equitable results for owner, in 1993.
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Title Annotation:Review & Forecast, Section IV; evaluation of New York, New York real estate industry for 1992 and forecast for 1993
Author:Schwartz-Sidrane, Karen
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 27, 1993
Previous Article:Legal issues that will help the 90's.
Next Article:Tips to trim costs in office design.

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