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Incompetent super

NYC Rent Regulation: Rent Control/Rent Stabilized, DHCR Practice/Procedures

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Incompetent super

Postby lexetor » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:40 pm

What are my rights with respect to building superintendent, if any? I recently moved into a rent stabilized apartment in NYC and I believe the super does not have the necessary qualification to perform his job, which is obvious on inspection of his work. Since this is a subjective assessment, are there any laws stipulating which competencies/certificates a super has to possess? If so, how can I check whether my super is in compliance with those? For example, is it requirement that the super speak English?
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:55 pm

As far as I know, the HMC is the only place the issue of super is considered
http://tenant.net/Other_Laws/HMC/sub2/art13.html

Look at section 27-2055 Certification of competency. Although few LLs will comply with this, nevertheless it is part of the code. Problem is it's just a piece of paper and doesn't guarantee anything.

If a super cannot speak English, then you will have a difficult time communicating with him (unless you both speak another language).

Keep a log of items not repaired, or items repaired in an incompetent fashion. If enough items are on your list, it might give you cause to raise a fuss in court or otherwise.

But to be honest, I don't think you'll have much luck.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby lexetor » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:01 am

Interesting, how would I verify that the super has this certificate of competency or the equivalent training? Do I send a email to the department of housing & development? I would not trust anything my landlord has to say about this.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:13 am

The LL won't tell you. You could go down to HPD main offices downtown and ask as many people as you can get access to. Or you could complain to 311 that there is no certificate on file (and there's maybe a 95% chance that is true). If nothing is on file, then HPD should search its own records and issue a violation. Of course 311 is a joke, so I wouldn't put a lot of faith in that. Bottom line, even with a certificate, that probably will not solve your problems. So you're left with filing complaints with DHCR, withholding rent or filing a HP Action.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby Cranky Tenant » Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:40 am

Many years ago my neighbor filed a building-wide Decreased Services Complaint with DHCR and carefully listed all of the complaints in regards to the super. In order to restore the rent our landlord moved him to a different building and hired a new super for our building.

DHCR also has a term for repairs that were done in "an Unworkman Like Manner" where the landlord has to complete unfinished repairs or have them re-done.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 24, 2018 6:08 am

But I've also seen cases where just the mere existence of a live person was sufficient to satisfy DHCR or HPD. Showing that a person is incompetent is a tough road, but perhaps not impossible. It might also depend on the landlord and his/her willingness to better the situation. Another point that can be raised is whether the bulk of the tenant population is in agreement.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby lexetor » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:45 am

Assuming they have no Certificate of Competence on file. Would I be able to use this as a reason to refuse him access to my apartment for repairs? My goal is to have a licensed technician perform the repairs, since I am concerned the super will cause more damage instead. I have documented multiple instances of where his repairs led to more damages.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:15 pm

It probably depends on what the repair is. Something minor, probably not. Understand the requirement for a certificate is a very obscure provision and mostly ignored. I would focus on how past repairs have worked out - or not.

You want a licensed person, well make sure it's a profession that actually has licenses. In general "repairmen" or "handymen" are not licensed in the same way electricians or plumbers are.
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Re: Incompetent super

Postby Sky » Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:51 am

There's also a document called a 'certificate of fitness' (cof):

http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/cof_st ... ochure.pdf
http://www1.nyc.gov/site/fdny/business/ ... -cofs.page

I came upon this when I had a super who was especially incompetent and whose narrow skillset was primarily comprised of breaking things (that he was ostensibly fixing) and lying for the LL. I withheld rent when there was no heat in the building for a couple weeks of temps in the teens. We lived in an ice tomb and the LL was incommunicado. In preparing for a housing court lawsuit I visited the FDNY offices and was informed that my super was required to have a COF in order to legally operate the building's boiler, which he did not have.
The super was called as a witness in court by the LL to support the latter's outrageous lie that we had heat the entire two weeks except for a single two hour window when it was deliberately shut off for 'testing', which just happened to coincided with the exact time an HPD inspector visited the building, found no heat or hot water extant, and wrote up a violation. The super could not recite the spelling of his own name (even with prompting by an interpreter), had no identification on him, and he could not write his name when he judge offered him that option. The judge (who hated me for asserting my rights) tried everything he could to positively ID the super so he could testify and lie for the LL ... but nothing worked. To the LL's dismay the judge decided there was no way to discern the identity of the man on the witness stand and he was ordered off. Turns out he was illiterate.
Sometime after that he obtained his COF and he showed it to me. So the bar for that certification is not very high.

Back to your issue...
Your super may or may not be qualified to do certain work.
In NYC you cannot do more involved electrical work than changing a swtichplate or lightbulb without having a permit and a license. If you wish to get technical, you can enforce these and other issues by making complaints to the Dept. of Buildings by calling 311. Also, in building older than the 1970s many wall repairs (such as sanding, scraping, cutting etc.) beyond a few square feet require the worker to have a certificate from the EPA.

https://www.epa.gov/lead/renovation-rep ... ng-program

In-wall plumbing repairs and alterations need a DOB permit and licensed plumber. You can get very technical if the situation calls for it and you can force the owner to hire licensed & certified repairmen or face the potential of violations, fines, HP lawsuits, DHCR actions, etc. On thing you can do is preempt a potential situation and also keep a paper trail. If there's an electric repair, write a certified letter asking the identity of the licensed contractor who is going to appear on the specific repair access date, and what the DOB permit number is for the work. Likewise, If they are disturbing an area of wall about 2-3'x3' or larger associated with a repair (I forgot the exact sq. ft. number, you need to check the EPA's RRP info at the link above) write a certified letter to the LL requesting to know who the EPA certified contractor is who is going to supervise the work on site and ask for a copy of his EPA certificate or his certification number.
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