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installing a screen door for my rent-stabilized apt

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installing a screen door for my rent-stabilized apt

Postby KButler97 » Wed Jul 07, 2021 1:04 pm

We live in a rent-stabilized building, one of several managed by the same people. All of the apartments on our floor open onto a "deck" space on top the parking garage for the building. Half of these apartments have screen doors, half don't (including us). Apartments with small terraces in the other buildings managed by these people also have screen doors. When we asked the landlady if we could get a screen door installed she said it's not her responsbility, but that she'd pay half. Question 1: Is that true? If other tenants have screen doors, shouldn't we have one too? It appears that there was a screen door in the past (you can see where the hinges were) but at some point it was removed. We are planning to purchase and install a screen door and deduct it from our rent, with the proper documentation. Question 2: Can we do this? BTW, when we first moved in she charged us illegal key money which I've been hanging over head ever since. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
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Re: installing a screen door for my rent-stabilized apt

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jul 07, 2021 3:11 pm

Just a point of clarification. There can be RS units within a building, but the building itself is not RS.

In our view, a screen door would not be a building-wide service required for all RS units. But it may be for the individual unit. If you can show the unit had a screen door on or after the base date, it might be required for your unit. Just because one or more units have a certain feature, that does not follow that all similar units must have the same features. And there's no requirement they have the same rents. The unit next to yours might have a higher or lower rent.

You say the door jamb has areas notched out for hinges. That sort of proves that a door was there at one time.

But just to distinguish, a LL is required to have a door on the opening, but not necessarily a screen door unless it's a required service.

I don't know what a screen door would cost these days, but to shoulder half the cost might be preferable than litigating the question for a long time (DHCR can take years), and you can probably choose one that fits your needs. I would look for a storm door with a screen insert. That would not replace the regular door.

Installation shouldn't be too hard unless you can't handle basic hand tools.

Installing one without the LL's written permission is tricky. There is no law that allows a tenant to make a repair and then deduct it from the rent. The LL could even take you to court for an illegal alteration. So be careful.

On the key money, if within four years (might be 6 years now with HSTPA), you can file an overcharge. Can you prove it? When I moved in many years ago the super demanded key money. I wrote him a check so I had a paper trail despite his denial.
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Re: installing a screen door for my rent-stabilized apt

Postby KButler97 » Thu Jul 08, 2021 9:44 am

Thanks - this is very helpful. We can take photos of where there clearly were hinges once upon a time and use that to document it. I appreciate your detailed response.
The key money was collected when we first moved in 12 years ago, and I do have a copy of the cancelled check, which I often use as leverage! I know it's too late to do anything legally.
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Re: installing a screen door for my rent-stabilized apt

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jul 08, 2021 11:00 am

Keep the screen door issue separate from the key money issue. They really are different.

The LL might claim no one complained about the lack of a screen door, but that's not the point. However he might claim there has been no door since 1930 or so, way before the base date (depends on the age of your building). There are many excuses, which is why I suggested you might give some thought to just paying for half of a door. I get why you might want the LL to pay for it; I've been in the same situation before. But believe me, finding a point of compromise would actually get you the door sooner, and might be cheaper from the costs of litigation in the long run.

Proving a door once existed does not prove WHEN it existed.

On the rent, there are two things. First is the rent level itself. If the actual rent charged was over that allowed by the RGB, then there might be a case for setting the rent to what should be the legal amount.

But in the act of collecting the higher rents over time, the LL might have overcharged you. That is limited by the statute of limitations. Before it was 4 years, now it's 6 years. That means they can only go back the 4/6 years in determining an overcharge.

If the key money was collected 12 years ago, that would be a one-time charge and beyond the statute of limitations.

But, as you say, if you can use it as leverage, the by all means do so.
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