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Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

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

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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby BubbaJoe123 » Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:20 am

One suggestion to consider: would the landlord be willing to pay to provide you with a simple cellphone (not a smartphone), the number of which could be entered into this system, and which you could use just to receive intercom "buzzes"? Service is available for <$100/year, and the phones are often free. The landlord might not go for this, but it would seem a solution to the problem you describe...
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Mr_Buzzer » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:57 am

Quick Update: As of yesterday, it looks as though they've finally deactivated the old system, as UPS and others have all said they tried buzzing me from the vestibule panel, but it no longer rings in my apartment. Fortunately, someone let them in.

...would the landlord be willing to pay to provide you with a simple cellphone...?


I've talked to a number of people who have also made the same "cheap 'dumb' cellphone" suggestion, and I've looked at various low-cost options. Based on industry trends and mergers I've read about, I don't think those options will remain low-cost too much longer.

If the PDFs posted so far are any guide, any rent reduction would likely fall somewhere between $10–$15 a month ($120–$180 a year), which should cover it, as long as rates don't spike too much.

But there are two problems:

1. As explained near the end of my previous post on page-1, any DHCR rent-reduction would not accrue to me, but would be recouped by the DRIE program.

2. Even if it accrued to me, any DHCR ordered reduction would be fixed, and not subject to periodic adjustment. If the order was on the low side, if there was a significant spike in rates, I would have to absorb the difference, of which I have an extremely limited ability to do.

The option some are pitching is that I try and enter into some type of informal agreement with the LL, where I don't seek a DHCR order, and the LL pays for the 'dumb' cellphone service. However, even if that option was being offered (it's not) I'm disinclined to enter into any such arrangement, as I've no doubt that at some point, after any 'statute of limitations' had elapsed, the LL would pull the rug out from under me.

Reps' for the LL have made clear they'll fight any rent reduction order, tooth and nail. The LL's position is DHCR shouldn't punish him for actions by the Co-Op board, which are beyond his control.

Bottom line, there's a better chance of hell freezing over before the LL both "suffers a reduction" and pays for an alternative accommodation, short of a court order.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:15 am

You should consider filing a complaint with DHCR as soon as possible. I would also look at a city complaint (311) for violating the Housing Maintenance Code. If other tenants are in the same boat, consider a building-wide complaint. You could withhold rent, but be prepared to go to court. And I would consider filing a harassment complaint. This is an attempt to get you out.

DHCR rent reductions are intended to fine the LL, not enrich tenants. I understand the dilemma with the money going to DRIE and yes, that sucks.

Rent reductions for RS tenants are a percentage based on the most recent RGB increase, then the rent is frozen. For RC it's a dollar amount. See if the new law changed that.

I'd look also at ADA and "reasonable accommodation" and any senior laws.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Mr_Buzzer » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:51 am

Brief Update: As of this past Thursday, June 27, the old intercom system was re-activated, for reasons that are not clear. I'm told it may only be temporary. How "temporary" is also unclear.

I've been trying to ascertain what's going on and why. Unfortunately, I'm hearing several apocryphal stories from multiple sources, none of which are particularly reliable, each having their own agenda.

I managed to talk to someone in the LL's office further up the food chain than his usual reps'. (e.g., the Property Manager, Etc.) I was told the LL would talk to the Co-Op board about the situation, and was asked to hold-off filing with DHCR until he had a chance to rectify the situation. Being as DHCR now requires you give the LL written notice, a minimum of ten business days before filing a complaint, I agreed to give him until after July 4th.

However, I have no way of knowing if the LL actually talked to the Co-Op board, and if so, whether it was the reason for the reprieve.

Whether the LL's assertion is just a delaying tactic, I haven't a clue. At times I get the impression the different reps' for the LL are running a "good cop–bad cop" routine on me.

What I do know is Academy Intercom has, thus far, not replaced the "Enterphone 2000"-style vestibule panel. Yet, according to some, the "new" system that calls your phone appears to still function, even after the "old" system had been re-activated. If true, what this tells me is the "new" system somehow piggy-backs off the old system, and there is no reason to deactivate the old system, whatsoever.

If other tenants are in the same boat, consider a building-wide complaint.


I've been trying to determine if anyone else has complained. Unfortunately, the few remaining RC tenants, myself included, continue to get the silent treatment from both shareholder tenants and the Co-Op's building management. As best I can tell, the other RC tenants, who are extremely guarded in what they say, don't share my intercom issue.

You could withhold rent, but be prepared to go to court.


For long, convoluted reasons, withholding rent is not an option for me.

This is an attempt to get you out.


I'm curious as to how you arrive at that conclusion? The LL has certainly tried in the past, and would love to do so. However, previous legal wrangling militates against that likelihood.

DHCR rent reductions are intended to fine the LL, not enrich tenants.


I get that. I wasn't looking for a windfall. Merely an offset to any additional costs I'd incur if I go the 'dumb' cellphone route.

Let me ask, is it within DHCR's authority to order the LL to supply an alternative means, such as a 'dumb' cellphone, as opposed to a rent reduction?

For RC it's a dollar amount. See if the new law changed that.


I had pretty much determined it was a dollar amount, and the likely range of reduction from the PDF decisions you've already posted. The "new law" appears to be a wild card in this situation. Having read your response in the "New Pro Tenant Legislation" thread, and considering your opinion of DHCR, and my own experience with the agency, I don't have a lot of confidence in what they might decide.

The above said, where do I look for any relevant changes?

I'd look also at ADA and "reasonable accommodation" and any senior laws.


As I had previously said, an ADA attorney tells me my situation is not yet "ripe" and may never be. I will look into the "senior" angle.

I have made outreach to several indigent legal services that have assisted me in the past. Unlike after superstorm Sandy, when they were all flush with cash, all have said that unless you have an eviction notice in hand, they are not taking on other types of T/L cases.

As an aside, NYC (DoF, HRA) has tried to get me to switch from DRIE to SCRIE. Two unaffiliated lawyers have both said DO NOT DO IT! It seems the state-subsidized SCRIE program does not recognize the city-subsidized DRIE program, and therefore switching from DRIE to SCRIE results in your new, "what you pay" rent being frozen at the current (higher) regulated rent, not the lower DRIE-subsidized rent.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:10 pm

Look, you got 50 questions here, I can't answer them all or give a step-by-step of various possible strategies.

First, July 4 is 2 days away, so don't fret over that. Second, you can only file a complaint when a service has actually been decreased. Forget all the details ... if the service is gone, then you have grounds to complain.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Landlords Boy » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:56 pm

I can't speak for your landlord but only from my experience. There are some issues with older intercom systems where replacement parts - especially keyboards - are no longer manufactured. Then the vendors offer "solutions" that either don't comply with the law or can be awkward to implement, like smartphone app systems. I haven't found a good solution yet for when the keyboards in two of my buildings break again: I want my older non-smartphone tenants to stay happy.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:07 pm

Oh baloney, your basic 1950's intercom and buzzer are easy to find. And with hundreds of thousands of multiple dwellings, there's a complete industry set up to repair existing systems. And unless the LL's cheap painters paint over the intercom unit (I have actually seen this occur), they last many years.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Landlords Boy » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:17 pm

TenantNet wrote:Oh baloney, your basic 1950's intercom and buzzer are easy to find.
Yep. Unfortunately, these two buildings were "upgraaded" with 1980s technology. Going back would be awkward and might be considered a decrease in service, since everyone likes the current telephone landline access system.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby TenantNet » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:36 pm

As one who has the 80's technology, it's still the same basic 50's design, no real difference. Intercom and buzzing are not high tech unless they add things like smartphones, or ties to tenant's phone systems.

Everyone likes tel. landline access systems? On what planet?
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:57 am

A new article just on this issue:
http://tenant.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=13817

Still waiting for DHCR to produce the rest of the PAR decisions. Why not FOIL them yourself? See how much cooperation you will get from DHCR. Just use the docket numbers. https://hcr.ny.gov/freedom-information- ... ts-records

Tramutola: UE410036RT (11/3/06)

405 & 465 W. 23rd St./410 & 470 W. 24th St.: PJ430053RT (2/2/04)

Electro Concourse Associates: DT630042RO (3/9/16)

561 Lenox Avenue LLC: FP430032RO (3/3/18)

CF E 86 LLC, SME E 86 LLC, LSG E 86 LLC/CSFM E 86 Manager LLC: GP410010RO (1/24/19)

175 West 95th Owner, LLC: EV410008RO (6/28/17)

E&M Bronx Associates, LLC: CV610003RO (4/7/17)

GLS 8630 LLC: DO210017RO (6/9/16)
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Mr_Buzzer » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:37 am

Well... as of this past Monday, July 28, the building permanently cut-over to the new system, and I'm once again without intercom service. I've been talking to neighbors, reps for the co-op, and my landlord. As of yesterday, all say I'm SOL.

I'm preparing a letter to my LL, to be sent by Certified Mail, informing him of my intention to file a complaint with DHCR. (DHCR's rules require me to notify the LL in writing, ten business days in advance of filing).

"Still waiting for DHCR to produce the rest of the PAR decisions. Why not FOIL them yourself? See how much cooperation you will get from DHCR."


Being as you've already made the request for those decisions, is there any reason to believe there's a likelihood I will have any better luck?

"A new article just on this issue:
http://tenant.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=13817"


I'll look it over, as I'm told that with the completion of the new intercom installation, implementing a Key-Fob system is now on the front burner.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Mr_Buzzer » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:49 am

There are some issues with older intercom systems where replacement parts – especially keyboards – are no longer manufactured.


In addition to what TenantNet* has already said, having checked with Viscount Systems — formerly Viscount Communications, the manufacturer of the '80s era "Enterphone 2000" system (now called the "Enterphone Classic") which was still functioning until this past Monday — they tell me parts and service, including replacement keyboard parts, are still available. They provided a list of their "authorized" sales and service reps, which includes Academy Intercom, the vendor of the just-installed "smartphone friendly" system.

It may be that Academy and other vendors would prefer to sell you a completely new system rather than repair an existing system that is otherwise functional and maintainable, and therefore claim that parts are unavailable.

Moreover, servicing an existing system is a non-recoverable expense to the LL, whereas installing a "new" system may qualify for an MCI increase. So the incentives are skewed towards unnecessary changes.

*The original '70s-era intercom and buzzer panel, that is still on the wall, looks just like the one shown on the Amazon page TenantNet links to.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby Mr_Buzzer » Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:30 am

"Look, you got 50 questions here..."


Actually, there were only three questions, of which the last two are the only ones presently applicable. So I'll re-ask them:

1. Is it within DHCR's authority to order the LL to supply an alternative means, such as a 'dumb' cellphone, as opposed to a rent reduction?

2. Being as the new, so-called "pro-tenant" law is the wild-card in this situation, where do I look for any relevant changes?
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby BubbaJoe123 » Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:34 am

Mr_Buzzer wrote:
Moreover, servicing an existing system is a non-recoverable expense to the LL, whereas installing a "new" system may qualify for an MCI increase. So the incentives are skewed towards unnecessary changes.


I'd agree if this were a rental building, but you said that there are only four rental tenants left out of 50 units.* Even if we assume your landlord is the sponsor and owns all four of the remaining rental units, the vast bulk of this upgrade cost is being borne by the other owners, so I doubt there's much MCI vs operating expense incentive here.

Certainly agree that the vendor would likely prefer to sell a new system vs. maintain an older one.

All this said, I can also understand why the co-op shareholders might want to make this change, rather than having to maintain the infrastructure for a hardwired intercom system when nearly half of US households no longer have a landline phone (and a lot of those get phone service from their cable company, so there's no working phone line going into the apartment), but 96% of US adults own a cellphone.

*Since it's a co-op, the other tenants are technically renters as well, but not really for the purposes of this discussion.
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Re: Intercom and/or Key Fob issues

Postby BubbaJoe123 » Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:48 am

Mr_Buzzer wrote:Is it within DHCR's authority to order the LL to supply an alternative means, such as a 'dumb' cellphone, as opposed to a rent reduction?


As far as I know, it's not, but there's nothing I'm aware of that would prevent you from reaching a deal (written, of course) with your LL under which you withdraw (or don't file) the DHCR complaint, and the LL provides you the cellphone.

Mr_Buzzer wrote:Being as the new, so-called "pro-tenant" law is the wild-card in this situation, where do I look for any relevant changes?


Thinking through the law's changes, the only thing that comes to mind is that the cap on annual MCI increases is now 2%/year, rather than 6%, so that would limit the portion of the new system's cost that could be passed on to you (assuming the LL was going to try to put through an MCI).

The bill itself is here: https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S6458
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