Rule 2-01 Testimony: Narrative Statement Pitfalls

No one knows loft buildings better than the tenants who live there. Often tenants did most of the work to convert an empty warehouse or factory into living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. So when it comes time to make the building safe, it’s essential to have the tenants’ input. 

That’s a large part of why the Narrative Statement Process was created. Rule 2-01 is very well thought out and fair. However, many loft landlords are flouting the process and trying to escape the tenant oversight that is at the heart of the rule. Don’t let them!

One way landlords are doing this is through abuse of the Narrative Statement Waiver. The intent of the waiver under 2-01(f) is to save time and effort for landlord and tenant when they already agree on what work should be done, not to remove the tenant’s vital understanding from the process. Yet NYCLT is hearing many reports about landlords getting tenants to sign waivers with claims like “it’s so that we don’t have to change your unit” and other nonsense. Some have even pressured tenants to sign waivers without showing them a narrative statement, or without even having filed an alteration application!

NYCLT thanks the Loft Board for adding language to the rule mandating that the waiver must “identify the relevant plan and narrative statement by date”, and also for allowing conferences with tenants who didn’t understand what they were signing away.

However, the waiver form is clearly inadequate:

  • It makes no attempt to explain the Narrative Statement Process, even briefly.

  • It does not assert that the tenant has reviewed the plans and statement, nor does it assert that they understand that their unit and building will be legalized accordingly.

  • It does not ask the tenant to acknowledge that they are waiving any further input into the plans and narrative in their present form.

  • It also does not state that any further changes will be subjected to an amended Narrative Statement Process.

Given that the only way most tenants learn about the Narrative Statement Process is if they contact a volunteer tenant group or speak with a lawyer, it is no wonder that tenants sign their rights away. And when a group like NYCLT tells tenants one thing, and landlords say another thing, the tenants don’t know who to believe. Reading the summaries on the Loft Board website might give them a start, but the website doesn’t even say what the waiver is for.

We ask that the waiver form make tenants aware of how the process works, ensure they have have had a chance to review the statement and plans, and state what rights they are signing away.

Another way landlords try to manipulate the Narrative Statement Process is by giving tenants Narrative Statements that that are vague and dishonest, often without even having filed an alteration application or having plans available. For instance, the statement might quote building code correctly, to make it look intelligent, but then not specify which partitions will have to be changed in a unit, or what plumbing or wiring needs to be replaced. We acknowledge this is partly remedied through tenant education, but we ask the Board to continue being vigilant about the quality of statements and the completeness of service. 

Because of landlord disregard for the process, the notice of the Narrative Statement Conference may be the first time tenants even hear about the process at all. So please continue to be diligent about getting the notice to tenants on time.

Given how essential tenant participation is to building safety, we beseech the Loft Board to keep tenants involved and not tolerate attempts to short-circuit the process.

Thank you,

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