Loft Board Pays Attention II

We expected today’s Loft Board meeting to be another rubber-stamp session on some version of the Interim Rent Guidelines. We had posters ready, objecting to the giant arbitrary increases in the latest proposal, and duct tape for our mouths since the Loft Board would not allow us to testify.

Surprise, surprise! The introductory comments by Chairman LiMandri referred to the many letters they had received about this issue (we get a mention) and he led the Loft Board in a long, convoluted discussion about how to arrive at fair and sensible Interim Rent Guidelines. This alone was a surprise — they went back to square one, ditching all the arbitrary reasons for percentages and time schedules from all the previous proposals.

Soon, the essential conflict came out. Are rent increases under the Interim Rent Guidelines meant to be an incentive for bringing loft buildings up to code or a gift to landlords that haven’t gotten a rent increase in a while?

If the intent is to give something to the landlords because they haven’t raised someone’s rent in a few (or many) years, then why do they deserve it? It’s not like tenants are in charge of rent increases. If a landlord didn’t raise the rent in a loft building for 10 years, it’s probably because the tenants were putting up with lousy heat, leaky roofs, and had to fix everything themselves. Maybe that landlord realized that if he tried to raise the rent and lost his tenants, no one else would move in. Does that landlord then deserve a large rent increase just because he or his tenants applied for Loft Law coverage?

NYCLT has an answer: NO.

If the intent is to provide incentives for landlords and tenants to apply for coverage and get all the way through the legalization process, rent increases should be strictly attached to guideposts in that process. A freebie rent increase just for applying does nothing to push the process along and might A) cause landlords to take the increases and do nothing or B) cause tenants to do the math and not apply.

The first part of the 6-8-6 is the incentive. It’s REALLY easy to get to – too easy, in fact. All the landlord has to do is register his building with the Loft Board and submit an Alteration Application, which is a preliminary proposal for work to be done to comply with the Article 7-B code. The application includes a full set of building plans, but it can be amended. Immediately the landlord gets a 6% increase — that should be more than enough incentive to move toward legalization!

Back to the meeting… the new Manufacturing representative, if I can be so blunt, might be our new best friend on the Loft Board. He proposed the Guidelines be set at 0%. Stay tuned.

Chairman LiMandri proposed many variations on the Interim Rent Guidelines, but it was impossible for the Board to find a rational argument for any of the proposal (kudos to him for trying to make some sense out of nonsense). In the end, two proposals will be worked up for the next meeting. ONE: 0% increases. TWO: a one-time increase for tenants that had no increase since June 2009, equal to the Rent Guidelines Board number (2.5%) minus a factor if the tenant pays his or her own utilities.

I think we hit this one out of the park. Congratulations.

Loft Board votes on Interim Rent Guidelines?

We have reason to believe that the Loft Board will vote Thursday on the Interim Rent Guidelines, despite very little understanding of the rule or its effects.

This Thursday December 8 at 2pm, please come to 22 Reade St. and show them we are watching.

Because we did not feel the real effects of this rule had been considered, NYCLT has requested to testify on the proposed rule. Our letter to Loft Board Chairman Robert LiMandri is below.

Dear Mr. LiMandri,

I am writing you on behalf of New York City Loft Tenants – NYCLT, a coalition of tenants affected by the 2010 expansion of the Loft Law. We respectfully request the opportunity to testify December 8 on the proposed 2-06 Interim Rent Guidelines.

The Loft Law promises to make illegal conversions legal and safe, and yet Rule 2-06 threatens to reduce the number of buildings covered.

2-06 affects two very different groups of tenants: those who signed expensive leases during the boom years before 2007, and tenants living in poorly maintained buildings. Landlords with high-paying tenants have plenty of incentive to register their buildings, and they are doing so. However, in poorly maintained buildings it is tenants that will take the initiative to apply, and they will not if the Law is just going to price them out.

This observation comes from our feet-on-the-ground experience organizing tenants. We would like to give a short 10 minute talk about what is known and unknown about the effects of the proposed increases. We request this to be followed by questions from the Board.

Please allow us to present what we know on Thursday.
Thank you
NYCLT