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Charged for use of a swimming pool

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

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Charged for use of a swimming pool

Postby brklyngirl » Tue Jul 06, 2021 5:02 pm

I live in a rs apartment building that has a pool. In years past the LL has asked that we pay $50 for use of the pool every year. They have always accepted a check that they never cashed because we believe the fee is illegal. The pool is an amenity of the building. Normally I wouldn't mind paying $50 a summer for the use of the pool but the pool is rarely open and it isn't really worth it.

This year, they are refusing checks but only asking for cash. I think this fee is illegal is there a way to report this?
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Re: Charged for use of a swimming pool

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jul 06, 2021 6:06 pm

This could get complicated.

As a RS tenant, you are entitled to "required services" as opposed to "essential services." The latter usually encompasses things like heat, hot water, etc. - things that are "essential." You see this primarily in Rent Control.

Required Services are different and essentially based on a tenant's lease and previous provision of various services. Required services include all Essential Services and can also include what might be considered luxury amenities, for example a swimming pool, storage areas, etc. If a service has been provided to RS tenant "on or after the base date," it is considered required. The base date is often set at 6/30/1974, and can also include the beginning of the tenancy. If a service did not exist (or was not provided) back in 1974, but it came into existence later, it still can be a required service. For example, if a LL installs a laundry room in the basement of a building in 2010, then it becomes a required service. However, if the LL takes away or reduces tenant storage areas in order to make the laundry room, then tenants can file for a service decrease. If the space is limited, then you might have two required services competing with another. I would wait a while in such a case as I don't think DHCR would consider something to be required if it just came into existence a short time prior.

See https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... 2020_0.pdf

Also http://tenant.net/DHCR_info/factnew/orafac03.html
(this is an old sheet and out-of-date)

With all this, nothing is black and white. LL's will offer us all sorts of excuses why something is not a required service. Some might make sense, but others don't. The question is whether or not DHCR will buy into an excuse. They do, for example, see some reductions as de minimus, or so small that it's not worth considering. Forests have been cut down to argue what de minimus means.

A few years back, DHCR decided that a change in a laundry from coin-operated to a magnetic card was de minimus, not a real service reduction. In that case, without knowing the details, I would probably agree with the agency's view. But many things are not de minimus at all no matter what the agency says.

But often LL's will claim the tenants never complained. that makes no sense as many new tenants will not have known about a prior service, and LLs go to great trouble to cover things up.

As for your pool, if the practice has been to charge a fee, and that is consistently applied to all tenants, that might be legal. Some services with fees might be considered subject to rent stabilization, meaning they must follow RGB increase limits. You see this a lot with parking spaces.

A reduction in hours might be considered a service decrease.

If the LL charged a fee, but never cashed the checks, you could probably argue the service was provided without a fee. I would. But something like that can get sticky and I don't know how DHCR would rule.

Only accepting cash? Bells and whistles go off on this as it's obviously a way to avoid taxes. You can complaint to the IRS and the NYS tax authorities. Do they provide receipts?

But figure out what you want. You say you are willing to pay a reasonable fee. Is this something that is negotiable? I would put communication on paper to memorialize what you say and the LL's reply just in case you want to make an official complaint.
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