Thanks Loft Board!

It seems we are making a lot of progress in getting the Loft Board to adopt some modest changes to the proposed rules that will help tenants a lot. Most of the issues we raised in testimony in July were seriously considered on August 2.

Please come out to the next LB meeting 2pm September 6 @ 22 Reade St, Manhattan, to show them we are paying attention.

Here is our thank-you letter summarizing the issues and their responses. There are also a few issues which got lost in a very active discussion.

Letters may be more important than testimony! So please write letters explaining the importance of the changes we are asking, or explaining anything you don’t think is understood. Even a letter just saying you support NYCLT’s position on X Y and Z is helpful! Send to Executive Director Lanny Alexander <laalexander@buildings.nyc.gov>

 

Dear NYC Loft Board:

Thank you for the serious consideration you have given to tenant concerns raised at the recent hearings. In reviewing the rules for the past hearings, we gained new appreciation for the protections offered by the Law and the care which was taken in the design of the Rules which implement it. However, it is very complex to convert commercial buildings to residential use and change the relationship between landlords and tenants, and there are circumstances which the 1980s rules didn’t consider.

2-10: One such circumstance is that landlords wouldn’t properly file their Sale of Rights records as required by Rule 2-10, and would secretly hold onto them until a tenant has expended significant time and money in pursuing a coverage or overcharge claim. We deeply appreciate the Board’s desire to find a stronger remedy, but if one can’t be found, we ask that this fine be raised significantly. It is worth far more than $500 to a landlord to hold onto this “get out of jail free card”.

2-12: We also appreciate the serious thought which was put into making the legal rent more accountable and transparent in Rule 2-12. We are glad that the Loft Board is considering new ways to make it easier for tenants to find out their legal maximum rent, and easier for the Loft Board to process these requests. We urge the Loft Board to also institute a notification requirement on landlords so that it is easy for tenants to distinguish between a legal rent adjustment and a spurious illegal increase.

2-06.2: Thank you for agreeing to clarify the language about use-based escalators in Rule 2-06.2. We hope you can make these escalators easier to understand, and easier to challenge when they are wrong.

2-09: Thank you for understanding the problem with subletting restrictions in Rule 2-09 that could cause prime tenants to be in automatic violation of a rule that hasn’t been published yet. The restrictions should come into effect on the later of the effective date of the rule and the date of coverage.

2-09: We also appreciate the deep interest by a few members of the board in the prime-sub problem, the subject of Rule 2-09. If the rule is this confusing to the members of the Board, many of whom have legal training, you can imagine what consternation it causes tenants! We hope that the Board will continue the dialog with tenants to understand the landscape of tiered leases and the Rule, written when the prime-sub business model was not as well developed or as fluid as it is today.

2-02: Thank you for your concern over legal harassment and the more subtle forms of harassment that afflict loft tenants. From your discussion we understand that frivolous lawsuits and collections claims, and attempts to serve the Narrative Statement Waiver under false pretenses, should already be considered harassment under the current rule. It makes sense that importing the lists from 2-11.1 would be restricting – as long as it is clear that all attempts to infringe on tenant rights should be considered “quality of life” harassment.

2-11.1, 2-12: Finally, thank you for agreeing to keep Rules 2-11.1 and 2-12 open until Rule 2-01 has been heard. We look forward to reading Rule 2-01 and seeing how it interacts with these rules, in particular how the new provisions for “no work” permits affect rent adjustments.

We are ever grateful for your diligence in listening to our concerns and weighing solutions. We attach an addendum of a few issues which didn’t seem to get adequate attention in the last meeting’s crowded agenda.

NYCLT

Addendum: Unresolved concerns

Rule Issue Description
2-09 landlord consent Define “landlord consent” so that a tenant who moved in after June 2010 to an eligible unit (where the rights have not been bought) is eligible if the landlord accepts their rent directly. Make it easier for tenants to attain coverage, and easier for the Loft Board to determine eligibility.
2-06.2 liability for illegal overcharges Please add language to make it clear that illegal overcharges prior to the effective date of the rule can be used as a defense in collection or holdover claims. Many tenants face large “past due” notices from their landlords because they have refused to pay illegal increases the landlord attempted to make since June 2010, even being taken to court or having collections agencies hound them. As the rule is written, it is clear the tenant can retrieve any illegal overcharges they paid, but there is no protection for the tenant who refused to pay them.
2-06.2 no repayment of overcharges through a discount Overcharges should be repaid in a lump sum or on a payment plan, not as a discount on rent. Not only is the rent changing with milestone increases, making accounting difficult, but if the building changes hands or a tenant leaves, it will be almost impossible to make sure the rent is correct and debts have been settled.

Letter to Loft Board Members on the hearing process

Dear Loft Board Members:

NYCLT is pleased to hear that the hearings on the new rules will cover a reasonable number of well-weighted rules per hearing, with an adequate three minutes for each speaker to testify on each rule.

We understand that Mr. LiMandri did not promise but assured that time would be allowed between hearings for your discussion of testimony and possible resulting changes to rules. We hope that you will ask that this discussion is added to the agenda for a meeting following each hearing.

We also understand that not too far in the past, the Board Members were allowed to ask questions of speakers giving testimony. We think that this would improve your understanding of our concerns and help you make well-considered decisions.

Thank you,
NYCLT

cc: Council Member Erik Dilan, Council Member Stephen Levin,
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz,
State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol,
State Senator Daniel Squadron

NYCLT letter on rule hearings

Dear Ms. Alexander:
Dear Mr. LiMandri:

Please distribute this letter to the Loft Board.

NYCLT was concerned to hear at the last Loft Board meeting that once again, rule publication has been delayed, this time because the Board is concerned that loft tenants will be confused by individual rules being published out of context.

While we appreciate the complexity of the Loft Board rules and the need to understand the connections between them, we are afraid that the continued delay is going to affect our ability to comment on the rules more than our comprehension of them. Without sufficient tenant testimony, the Board risks passing ill-considered rules.

We hope that the Loft Board is still interested in the on-the-ground experience and knowledge of tenants affected by the new law. The remaining 12 rules will have a huge impact on tenants and we hope that we will have proper time to read them and provide our perspective during public hearings. Each hearing should address one rule so that we can reasonably prepare testimony.

Most loft tenants work days and do not have time to come to Loft Board meetings every other week, and if the hearings are scheduled back-to-back, there is no way that we will be able to testify about how the rules affect us. We also doubt that Board members will have any chance to respond to our concerns if the hearings are too close together.

We call on the Loft Board to
release the draft rules now so that we can start learning how they affect us
schedule the hearings at a reasonable pace so that working people can attend
schedule one rule per hearing so that we can testify on each one
allow the Board to ask questions of people giving testimony
schedule time between hearings for the Board to adjust rules based on public comment

Thank you,
NYCLT

cc: Council Member Erik Dilan, Council Member Stephen Levin,
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz,
State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol,
State Senator Daniel Squadron