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Keeping Door Opened

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Keeping Door Opened

Postby genezanou » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:29 pm

I live in a new apartment building in Astoria. My front door opens from the hallway into my kitchen. Sometimes I keep my door opened to keep my kitchen vented because there are no windows to open. The nearest window is a very small one in the living room which is not connected to the kitchen. My neighbor complained to me and told me not to open my door (especially during times when I am cooking) because it's rude. I have opened my door when I roasted chicken because of the heat and the gas exhaust that built up in my kitchen despite my kitchen vent being turned on. Right outside my door, there is a vent in a ceiling that sucks up air, so if cooking smells escaped my kitchen, they were then captured by that vent.

I would like to know if there is a fire code that prohibits apartment building tenants from keeping their front doors opened, especially when the door opens to a common hallway. I just want to make sure that I am not doing anything that violates the fire code.

(I found a fire code about not keeping self-closing doors opened and such...I don't think that applies to me)

Thank you.
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby TenantNet » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:17 pm

Does the kitchen have an exhaust fan? I thought there was some regulation on this for kitchens without windows. You mention a vent, but that's not the same thing as a fan.

Is this a new building or a conversion from another use?

Kitchen requirements are covered in the NYC Housing Maintenance Code (Chapter 3) http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub3/art3.html
and also see Chapter 1 - by reference - at http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub3/art1.html

§27–2071 Lighting and ventilation. The following requirements shall govern in multiple
dwellings:

a. The lighting and ventilation of kitchens shall be governed by the provisions on lighting and ventilation in article one of this subchapter.

b. A kitchenette constructed after July first, nineteen hundred forty-nine, shall have a window opening upon a street, a yard, court, shaft, any partially enclosed balcony or space above a setback, as described in paragraph three of subdivision a of section 27-2058 of article one of this subchapter, or an offset or recess less than six feet in width. Such window shall be at least one foot wide, have a total area of at least three square feet and be at least ten percent of the floor area of such kitchenette. In lieu of such window, such kitchenette may have mechanical ventilation to provide at least six changes per hour of the air volume of such kitchenette, or, when such kitchenette is on the top story, may have a skylight of at least one foot wide with a total area of at least four square feet or one-eighth of the area of the kitchenette, whichever is greater, and shall have ventilating openings of at least one-half of the area of the skylight.

c. A kitchenette constructed after July first, nineteen hundred forty-nine, may have a door or doors, if the lower portion of each door has a metal grille containing at least forty-eight square inches of clear openings or, in lieu of such grille, there are two clear open spaces, each of at least twenty-four square inches, one between the bottom of the door and the floor, and the other between the top of the door and the head jamb.

d. A kitchenette shall be deemed to be in compliance with this section if it was accepted or approved by the department on or before July first, nineteen hundred fifty-two, and if it was maintained in accordance with such acceptance or approval.


I would ask the LL where the fan is, or what happened to the window? You can also complain to the Dept. of Buildings by calling 311. Don't expect DOB to spend a lot of energy on this unless you really press the issue.

As for the front door being open, well some of that goes to courtesy to your neighbor. They have a point and perhaps it depends on what you are cooking. Like noise, some people have varying tolerences for certain smells.

However, I have never heard of any law or regulation that requires a tenant to keep their door actually closed ... as long as it's just temporary.

Apartment doors usually are required to be self-closing to maintain the firewall. Why wouldn't it apply to you?

I also seem to remember that for new construction, there should be a vestibule or private hallway (not the public hallway/corridor) from the front door before it gets to another room. However I might be mistaken on that -- you would need to check with an architect.
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby genezanou » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:02 pm

Thank you for your guidance on this matter. I will research all the points you raised.

My kitchen does not have an exhaust fan that vents to the outside. There's a fan that's built into the microwave that recirculates the smoke, steam, grease, and whatever else back into the kitchen. Everything I cooked lingered in the kitchen like a cloud because there's no outlet for the air to go anywhere. Hence my past practice of opening the door. The vent I mentioned previously is a vent in the hallway that is right outside my door, not inside my apartment.

I was given a written warning to keep my door closed - I may only open it to leave and enter my apartment, but not for any other reason. He threatened eviction if I don't comply. He said it's in the lease and pointed to a provisions that said I can't obstruct my door and can't disturb my neighbors. He said cooking smells disturbed my neighbors so it's covered by the provision about disturbing my neighbors. However, the clause about disturbing neighbors lies in a paragraph that described excessive noise. I told him the "disturbing the neighbors" bit seems to refer back to the paragraph about noise, not smells or odors. He said it doesn't matter, I can't do anything to disturbs my neighbors and keeping my door opened for a reason other than entering or exiting is a disturbance to the neighbors.

Do you have any thoughts about this? It just seems unreasonable that I can face eviction for keeping my door opened (even when I am not cooking).
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby TenantNet » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:37 pm

Again, is this a new building, or a conversion? Some converted buildings might not be able to have vents. Look for exceptions or substitutions in the codes I cited. Then you can ask the LL for the vent, and if they refuse or ignore, you can file a complaint.

You also didn't say if you were rent stabilized. If it's a new building you might be under 421-a or some form of 80/20, and if so, you might be rent stab. That often helps with tenant protections. Otherwise you're only protected by the lease or the law.

Who gave you a written warning? The other tenant? That means nothing. A provision that you can't obstruct your door means you can't block it, not that you can't leave it open. I presume when it's open you can still walk in and out.

And "disturbing the neighbors" does not mean he has control over your life. And while the lease refers to noise, as you point out, I could see it apply to odors. However that isn't his call. He would have to get the LL to agree, get a violation placed, the LL would have to bring a case in Housing Court and a Judge would have to agree. You're a long way from that. And even if that were all to happen, the court usually gives tenants time to correct the behavior.

He may indeed by disturbed by the, and yes, it's neighborly to minimize the odors if possible, but I think he's overreacting.

However, as I said, apt entrance doors are supposed to be self-closing to maintain a fire wall. But that doesn't mean that for an hour or so you can't prop it open.
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby genezanou » Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:31 pm

I am sorry, I have never lived in an apartment building before, soconversions and rent stabilization are unfamiliar to me. This is a new building. It is not rent-stabilized.

The landlord, through his property manager, gave me the warning. It sounds like the landlord and I differ in interpreting the lease, so it may be best if I contact a real-estate attorney for help. It just seems so unfair that one vague broad phrase can be used by a landlord to force tenants into compliance on any issue! If it's cooking now, what would be next? The fragrance that lingers after I leave the elevator, the sound of my footstep across the hall, the way I break down boxes to recycle, the way I dress?
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby TenantNet » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:17 pm

Did you have to go through a lottery to get the apartment? That would be a sign it might be under 421-a (a tax abatement in exchange for low-income units). Check your lease, look at all the fine print.

Conversions would be older buildings that might have had other (industrial) uses. Some of the conversions are amazing.

So it was the LL, not a tenant. That's a bit more serious, but still, I think they have an incorrect interpretation.

Not a real-estate attorney, but a tenant attorney. They are different. There are tenant attorneys that advertise on TenantNet. (FYI, we derive advertising revenue, but get no kickback if a tenant hires them).

However, it might be a bit too soon to hire a lawyer (unless you have enough money sitting around). At this point you want them to provide a fan, not get caught up in a court case.

If you have a friend who is an architect or engineer, consider consulting with them. They would know the Building Code, Housing Maintenance Code and Multiple Dwelling Law.
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby genezanou » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:06 pm

Thank you, whoever, who's been giving me such useful information. The ending to this story is that the landlord will not do anything about the fan and told me I can break my lease.
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Re: Keeping Door Opened

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:16 pm

That's no solution, and will require you to find a new place, possibly at a higher rent, and pay moving and relocation costs. I would not accept that.

Where is this building located? Can you let us know the address via Private Mail (use the PM button, don't put it on the public area of the forum).

Some new buildings are under certain regulations in exchange for zoning benefits or tax abatements. Once you have more information, you can make complaints to a number of Buildings and Housing agencies. You have to be willing to do something.
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