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Loss of service rent reduction refund?

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

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Loss of service rent reduction refund?

Postby Smilie » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:21 pm

Our 40 something tenant building (quite a few apartments are still rent stabilized and there are some DRIE/SCRIE tenants) did not have gas from May 23rd 2018 through December. Apparently there was something problematic with the main gas line into the building and the owner had to replace all gas lines in the entire building. It was a horrific series of months without gas service and with constant construction and intrusion into our apartments by parades of inspectors/workers/con ed. The owner eventually handed out hot plates, but the expenses incurred by the tenants without use of gas were many. Several of the tenants have suggested that there should be a reduction in our rents for the time we were without gas and enduring the construction, however it was suggested that we needed to wait till the gas was back on to file for the appropriate time period. Now that the gas is back on, I am wondering how we go about filing and receiving retroactive adjustments in rent for the months of loss of service. Any advice or direction is appreciated. Thank you!
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Re: Loss of service rent reduction refund?

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:58 pm

It's my understanding that DHCR will only reduced the rent (and only for tenants who sign such a complaint) if the reduction is ongoing. If services have been restored when the complaint is made, then DHCR would not reduce the rents. Remember, a main component of the complaint and the sought-after remedy is an order from DHCR to the LL to restore the services. I've never seen any DHCR order that reduces the rents for services that have been restored. And honestly, I don't know what DHCR would do if the service is restored while the complaint is still pending. (the tenants who say to wait most likely have no or little knowledge of tenant issues).

You should check with DHCR to verify this.

However, tenants can seek an abatement (one-time reduction in rent) for the time the service was out, even if it has been restored. You would have to do this in court, not DHCR. You could withhold rent(s) and use the lack of gas as a defense and counterclaim in a non-pay in Housing Court. This can be done if the gas is still out, or if it has been restored.

Or tenants could file a case in Civil or Supreme Court (most likely Supreme) where they were the plaintiffs and are suing the LL for compensation. And there are different forms of compensation. Tenants would likely have to show a) the time the gas was out, b) the impact it had on their lives and the extra expenses incurred (i.e., being forced to eat out, the cost of extra electricity if forced to use hotplates or microwaves instead of gas ovens).

This is a simple explanation and you would be best to consult with an experienced tenant attorney, go into this as a unified tenant association, and after consultation, try to negotiate with the LL. Decide what you want and what your bottom line is. An attorney can guide you through this process.
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