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April 2009 News about the J51 Case...
Important News Bulletin
Regarding The J-51 Law Suit
The Supreme Court of The State of New York
County of New York
There has been an important decision in the J-51 case.
Judge Marcy S. Friedman, has granted the plaintiff/tenants’ motion and ruled that the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) shall determine whether IPN’s apartments are rent stabilized because of the J-51.
The IPNTA is optimistic and believes the decision is favorable to tenants. We are gathering information and tenants’ questions and will report back with more details shortly.
Judge Friedman's decision in the J-51 case,
released Friday, April 3, 2009
Important Tenant Demonstration - October 1, 2008
Those of you who are LAP tenants are directly affected by the memo attached below. If the J-51 issue is resolved in our favor, everyone who chooses not to
have a voucher any longer will be affected by the Rent Guildeline's Board decisions.
We realize this demonstration is all the way uptown, but it is important for as many people who can attend, do attend. The RGB increases have been too high
and we must let the powers that be know we will not take this lying down.
Details are listed below from the organization Tenants & Neighbors. Please contact IPNTA or your floor captain if you can attend.
Thanks for your support
Diane Lapson and the IPNTA Executive Board
Dear Member of Tenants & Neighbors,
Greetings. On Wednesday October 1st the Real Rent Reform Campaign is holding a Citywide Tenant Demonstration against the Rent Guidelines Board increases. We are rallying from 5:30 to 7pm at the plaza in front of the Harlem State Office building on 125th Street at the corner of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
As you are surely aware, the RGB voted to hit tenants with increases of 4.5 percent for a one year lease and 8.5 percent for a two year renewal. For those tenants who have lived in their apartments for at least 6 years and whose rent is $1000 or less there will be a minimum rent increase of $45 for one year renewals or $85 for two years.
Tenants & Neighbors has committed itself to bringing 100+ people to the demonstration. It is really important to demonstrate to lawmakers that they must act on behalf of working families and the poor. The protest at the State office building brings home this message.
I’m writing to:
1) Make sure you and your organization are informed about the event,
2) To encourage you to make a final push to get tenants there,
3) Confirm as to how many folks you expect to bring, and
4) Request your help in phone-banking Monday and Tuesday, from 6-8pm.
We realize that you are already devoting yourself to organizing in your building or community or in the tenant rights movement at large. Yet, this is a crucial moment; we are within range of actually winning pro-tenant legislation that reverses the attack on affordable housing, of passing laws that will secure our homes.
Andrés Mares Muro
Rent Regulation Program Coordinator
Coordinador, Programa de renta regulada
"Whether rent-regulated tenants will see the consequences of the current system and seek to change it before their political clout disappears is a question that remains to be answered--
Aun queda en duda si los inquilinos van a reconocer las consecuencias desastrosas del presente sistema de alquiler y decidir si van a tomar las medidas necesarias para reformarlo antes que su fuerza política desaparezca por completo"--Craig Gurian, 2004
Filing Rent Overcharge with DHCR
[March 2008 Newsletter] [DHCR Overcharge Form or Instructions]
Why Should IPN Rents be Reduced?
IPN should have been rent stabilized when it left the Mitchell-Lama program. IPN’s owners began receiving a New York City J-51 tax benefit in 1998. Buildings receiving this benefit must be rent regulated. Until June 2004, IPN was rent regulated under Mitchell Lama. IPN’s owner never told the tenants about the J-51 benefit and he never told the DHCR. So now the tenants must ask the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to act.
Everyone Who is Eligible Should File an Overcharge Complaint with DHCR
You should file if:
- You lived here in June 2004 and pay more rent now than you did then;
- You rented garage space in 2004 and pay more for garage space now than you did then (garage space is an ancillary service that was provided to rent-regulated tenants);
- You were “downsized” to an apartment with fewer bedrooms, but are still paying the larger apartment rent
- You moved into IPN between June 2004 and March 2006
A rent overcharge complaint must be filed within 4 years of the time the overcharge began. If the court or the DHCR rule that IPN should have been rent stabilized after it left the Mitchell-Lama program, then the DHCR will look back four years to determine the rent stabilization base rent You protect yourself by filing a complaint within four years of the last Mitchell Lama rent on the apartment, establishing the date for DHCR to look back to. Your best protection is to file by June 2008 (within four years of the last rent before IPN left the Mitchell Lama program).
You are filing to protect yourself if IPN becomes rent stabilized. Filing a complaint is no guarantee that your rent will be reduced. The only guarantee – if you don’t file a timely overcharge complaint you definitely will not get a rent reduction based on the last Mitchell-Lama rent for the apartment.
The J-51 lawsuit is not enough to protect you. In December 2005 a small group of free-market tenants (all moved in after June 2004) sued the landlord and are asking a judge to order that IPN be rent stabilized. Even if the judge rules that IPN is rent stabilized, the rent will have to be calculated for each apartment. To have your rent calculated based on June 2004 rent, you must file with DHCR before June 2008.
How To Participate in the Group Filing — Meeting Dates
To participate in the group filing, it is necessary to contribute to the legal fee and be a paid member of the IPNTA. Legal fee: $300 for tenants who were here in June 2004, half a month's rent for those who moved in later. IPNTA Membership: $25 per person per year/$15 per senior per year. (If you cannot pay the requested fee, please discuss your situation with an IPNTA representative.)
Information/Assistance Meetings will include: help with filling out forms and what is needed, payment of membership dues and legal fee (and signing of retainer and solidarity agreements).
If you are a paid up member of the IPNTA and you want a copy of the Retainer & Solidarity Agreements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, with your email address, name, building and apartment number. You'll receive an email within 24 hours. Hard copies will be available at the meetings.
April 7 - Our attorney will be at the April 7 meeting from 7:15 to 8:15 to answer general questions about strategy. All tenants are welcome.
During the second hour we will review forms and documents, with focus on free market tenant issues. Completed forms, dues and legal contributions can be turned in.
April 14, Apr 21
- Completed forms can also be turned in on April 14 or April 21.
- Membership and legal contributions must be paid to attend the meetings on April 14 and April 21. You may pay at the meeting.
- Membership check payable to: “IPNTA” ($25 regular, $15 senior)
- Legal contribution check payable to: “IPNTA Legal Fund”
All Meetings will be at 7:15 pm, 310 Greenwich St, 2nd Floor Community Room
All completed forms will be collected by the Tenants Association by the Filing Deadline of Apr 30, 2008.
Special Considerations for LAP Tenants
LAP rent increases follow Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) increases. LAP tenants are paying the same rent they would be paying if IPN were rent stabilized. But right now, just like everyone else at IPN, LAP tenants do not have the protections of rent stabilization; and, because the landlord did not report to DHCR in June 2004 that the building was no longer rent regulated, he may not be entitled to any of the increases he received beginning in September 2004.
Remember: beginning in 2013, LAP rent increases will be RGB increases plus 3.33% each year for three years. Every year thereafter, LAP rent will be based on RGB increases plus 1% per year. With rent stabilization your rent will be based only on RGB guidelines; and your rent may be rolled back from what it is today to establish your base rent. Under the rent stabilization rules for buildings that received J-51 tax benefits there is no high-rent or high-income “de-stabilization.” In other words, if IPN becomes stabilized your rent will remain stabilized regardless of how high it is or how high your income is.
Tenants Who Paid "Back Rent" in the Summer of 2004
If you paid “back rent,” file a complaint
based on the rent you think is correct. If
you think your correct “last Mitchell Lama
rent” is the lower rent you were paying
before you paid “back rent” then you need
to file within four years of the last time
you paid that rent. If you think your correct
“last Mitchell-Lama rent” is the higher
“Mitchell-Lama fair market rent,” then you
should file within four years after the time
you started paying the higher rent (but
before your LAP lease began in September
Special Considerations for Voucher Tenants
An overcharge complaint is about the rent you are paying – not the amount that is ‘subsidized’ by the government. If you are paying more than you were in June 2004, then you should file a complaint. Even if your rent has not increased, if you have a parking space in the garage you can file for a reduction in garage rent only. If you don’t have any of your cancelled checks or money order receipts and your bank makes it prohibitive for you to obtain them you can submit your annual recertification letter as an alternative basis for proving what you have paid in rent.
Tenants Who Moved In Between September 2004 and March 2006
Even if you don’t know the last Mitchell Lama rent, you can file a rent overcharge complaint. Remember, the landlord knows what the last Mitchell Lama rent was. For an idea of the likely base rent: For 1 bedroom apartments the Mitchell Lama base rent was $738.68, the Mitchell-Lama “Fair Market” rent was $982.68. For 2 bedrooms the Mitchell Lama base rent was $924.10 and the Mitchell Lama Fair Market rent was $1230.10.
What’s Involved in Filing the Complaint — and Why You Need a Lawyer’s Help
The form is available online at DHCR. http://www.dhcr.state.ny.us/ora/forms/pdf/ra89.pdf, or you can google DHCR Rent Overcharge Application. The form is also posted on the IPNTA website (DHCR_Rent_overcharge_Feb2008.pdf) and will be made available by the IPNTA to those tenants without computer access.
Completing the form is not difficult. You need to collect and copy: original lease and amount paid at that time; leases and amounts paid over last four years; cancelled checks showing amounts paid each month for apartment rental and for garage rental over the last four years. Answer all questions except: 6, 15, 16, and 24 which will be answered in a group for all tenants who retain him, by our attorney, Seth Miller.
Anyone can file their own complaint. This approach is not recommended. The question of what correct rents are at IPN is hotly contested in litigation. If you file on your own you will be on your own when it comes to responding to the landlord’s response to your complaint. That will not be an easy task. You can do it yourself but you may not be prepared to do the job that’s needed. If you do it yourself, there’s no way to know whether you’ll get the benefit of any decisions made by the court or the DHCR in the other tenants’ cases.
If IPN becomes rent stabilized the rent-stabilized rent will be decided (by DHCR) apartment by apartment. DHCR only looks back four years. If you wait until December 2008 to file, the base they will look back to will be the December 2004 rent. If you wait until 2009, the base will be 2005. And so on.
Proving You Paid Your Rent
1- Get your cancelled checks for every rent payment (and every garage payment) starting April 1, 2004. Include electricity payments, started last spring.
2– If you are missing some or all of your cancelled checks. try to get copies of checks from your bank. Ask your bank for copies of cancelled checks and ask your bank to start processing your request immediately.
3- If the bank requires more than a nominal sum you should provide all the relevant cancelled checks that you have, and then also as many as you can afford to pay for starting from the earliest date – April, 2004. You should also ask the bank for a letter stating what the charges are for the checks.
4- Even if the charge is $6 or $12 per check you should be able to pay for at least one cancelled check showing the last Mitchell-Lama rent.
5- All tenants should provide copies of their leases at least since September 2004 and one prior renewal (the last renewal under Mitchell-Lama).
6- Tenants who want to file but do not have cancelled checks or leases should use their bank statements (if they have them), highlighting the checks that were the rent checks.
7- Tenants who used money orders should try to locate their money order receipts.
8- If you have no documentation whatsoever, as a tenant at the meeting pointed out"they haven't been evicted" so they must be paying their rent. You should still file.We'll work with you figuring out how to fill in the form.
“Overhoused” Enhanced Voucher Tenants
The March 12, 2004 agreement between the IPNTA and IPN's owners, entitles“overhoused voucher tenants” to continue to occupy their apartments without an increase in rent until the landlord offers them an appropriate sizedwithin IPN.not time limited. Under the agreement, whenever a voucher tenant’s household size changes, the landlord must offer the tenant an appropriate sized apartment. This part of the agreement was specifically included to protect IPN’s voucher tenants from HUD’s prior policy giving such tenants only one year to relocate to a smaller apartment.
On February 15, 2008, HUD changed its policy as well. Under the new HUD regulations, enhanced voucher tenants living in apartments that are too big for their household willto receive a rent subsidy based on the gross rent for their current apartment until an appropriate sized unit -- in the same development-- is made availablethem by the landlord. The enhanced voucher tenant's subsidy will be reduced to the level appropriate to theirsize only if the tenant refuses to accept the offer of a smaller apartment. This policy applies toIPN enhanced voucher families, regardless of when their household size changed. HUD’s policy statement: http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/publications/notices/08/pih2008-12.pdf.
HPD told the IPNTA that voucher recertification would be done in April from now on.
There will be an orientation meeting with important information about how to file in the future. Once HPD explains exactly what has to be filed, any breach in the future will result in voucher removal. We are working on an amnesty situation for all tenants who had hearings regarding their voucher removal prior to date. We are hoping we can accomplish this, but it is still in negotiation. Look out for the HPD correspondence.
Feb 13, 2008
ATTENTION ALL TENANTS:
Protect your rights
to a possible rent reduction!
Come to an important IPNTA meeting
With our Attorney, Seth Miller and
Borough President Scott Stringer
Wed. February 13 at 7:30 pm
at: P.S. 89 – 201 Warren Street
(one block south of Chambers St., across West St.)
This is a J-51 Update –
If you live at IPN this concerns YOU.
At this meeting we will explain:
- Why we believe that IPN apartments should be rent stabilized
- What rent stabilization is
- Why the J-51 lawsuit is not enough to protect tenants’ rights to possible rent stabilization
- What IPN tenants have to do to protect their rights to a possible rent reduction
- What IPNTA will do to help IPN tenants
- How to protect your rights
You must file a “Rent Overcharge Complaint” with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). This complaint must be filed within 4 years of the time the overcharge began. Tenants who lived here in June 2004 must file a complaint by June 2008. If you moved in later, the overcharge began when you moved in. The sooner you file a complaint the better off you are. Filing the complaint won’t guarantee a rent reduction – but not filing guarantees that your rent won’t be reduced. You can go to http://www.dhcr.state.ny.us/ora/forms/pdf/ra89.pdf to see the form or Download DHCR Rent Overcharge Form here.
- Why should the rent be reduced?
Because of the landlord’s J-51 tax benefit
IPN’s owners began receiving a New York City J-51 tax benefit in 1998. Buildings receiving this benefit must be rent regulated. Until June 2004, IPN was rent regulated under Mitchell Lama. After leaving the Mitchell Lama program in June 2004 the landlord continued to receive the J-51 tax benefit. He never told the tenants about the J-51 benefit and he never converted the building to rent stabilization. So now the tenants must ask DHCR to act.
- What is rent stabilization?
Rent stabilization controls rents and protects tenants. Rent increases are set by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board. Owners of rent-stabilized buildings must meet certain requirements when seeking additional rent increases. Under the rent stabilization rules that should apply DHCR should supervise IPN. There is no high rent de-control and no income de-control.
- Isn’t there already a lawsuit about J-51?
Yes. In December 2005 a small group of tenants sued the landlord and are asking a judge to order that IPN be rent stabilized. Unfortunately, the judge has not yet ruled.
- Won’t the lawsuit protect all IPN Tenants?
Even if there is a court ruling favoring rent stabilization, the rent stabilized rent will have to be calculated for each apartment. If you were here in June 2004 you must file a rent overcharge complaint with DHCR before June 2008 to assure that any recalculated rent for your apartment is based on the last Mitchell Lama rent.
- Does this affect everyone?
The only tenants not affected are those who are paying the same or less rent now than they were in June 2004. If they paid more than the June 2004 rent sometime in the past then they too are affected. If you moved in after June 2004 you are affected.
Information on Swine Flu
Regarding the Swine Flu, there is no reason to panic. However, just to keep people aware and informed, we are posting this information from the CDC, forwarded by Community Board #1. Training from Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) and other agencies have shown us that the most important thing in any potential situation is communication and information. An informed community actually produces a calmer approach to tackle any obstacle. With this in mind, please share your information with those around you.
And above all, don't get overly stressed. For most of us, this would be just another flu, if we do come down with the symptoms.
(April 30, 2009)
Electricity Update, October 5, 2007
There was an enormous turnout to our last tenant meeting. We know what the main concerns are and want you to know we are working on the issues. This bulletin is about ELECTRICITY. We have already met with a consultant regarding energy efficiency and usage and will get to the bottom of our sub-metering issues. In order to analyze the entire situation regarding electrical charges and sub-meters, we need to be methodical.
We need your participation.
1) If you received an electric bill of $300 or more:
We will start by addressing those tenants who received a Quadlogic bill exceeding $300 and who feel it is honestly not a true reflection of their usage. Please make a copy of all electric bills you have received to date, including those over $300.00. On the top of each bill, indicate your name, building, apartment number, and # of bedrooms. Include your phone number and e-mail address. PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY. Leave the stapled COPIES (no originals) in the TENANTS box in the lobby no later than September 31st. We will contact these tenants if we feel a meeting is necessary. Our consultant will study all bills and form a mathematical basis.
If you received an electric bill that you feel is too high given your usage UNDER $300, contact Management and ask to have your name added to the list of tenants who want Quadlogic to check their meters. After we have finished assisting tenants with $300+ electric bills, we will reach out to those other tenants who doubt the accuracy of their electric bills. We are in contact with professionals, including state agencies and commissions who have been working with energy consumption for over 30 years. They can help analyze IPN’s situation. We also continue to explore the issue of energy-efficient appliances.
2) If you are a voucher tenant and did not receive a new rent breakdown.
HPD is consulting their legal advisors to offer the IPNTA some answers about billing for voucher tenants, including first billing date. Additionally, if you have not yet received your new HPD rent breakdown, contact Management and ask that they make the adjustment for your rent reduction based on sub-metering. HPD claims they will not have completed all rent breakdowns until November 16th. We have copied the Borough President on all the HPD correspondence and have asked for assistance with the above, as well as with other issues.
We value your input, support and cooperation. If your question was not posed at the tenant meeting, write it down and drop it into the lobby box. Although we answered many questions at the meeting, we continue to address the issues from all angles. As always, anonymous notes will be disregarded. We cannot report or respond to rumors or hearsay.
Special Announcement: Discovery Conference Postponed Until 10/25/07
The discovery conference scheduled for 10/4 by Judge Friedman regarding any requests for discovery in addition
to the documents & items subpoenaed from HPD & the NYC Department of Finance,
has been postponed to 10/25 at the request of Stellar Management's lawyer.
Important News Bulletin Regarding the J-51 LAW SUIT, September 28, 2007
There has been a significant change in the status of the J-51 case.
On September 27, Judge Friedman issued two interim decisions about the J-51 case. Both are posted here as pdfs: J51 Summary Judgment Decision and IPNTA decision re Amend Complaint
In summary, Judge Friedman decided that she cannot make a decision about the impact of J-51 on IPN's rent levels. She wants to receive more factual information about the circumstances under which the benefits were received and ended.
It is the plaintiffs’ position that since the previous owner received J-51 benefits before and the new owners received J-51 benefits after leaving the rent regulated Mitchell Lama program in June 2004 they are obligated under J-51 rules to charge rent regulated rents to all tenants living here at that time as well as to first occupants of previously Mitchell-Lama regulated apartments.
The landlord says that J-51 benefits received after exiting the Mitchell Lama program were received by mistake. The landlord says that since the city retroactively removed any tax credits granted under J-51 after IPN left the Mitchell Lama program, J-51 rules regarding rent regulation do not apply to IPN.
Judge Friedman wants the facts supporting these two points of view to be further developed. She has given us her permission to subpoena documents from the NYC Dept. of Finance and HPD also to take deposition testimony about it of City officials.
Finally, she decided that free market tenant/plaintiffs in the J-51 case may not be evicted and that their rents may be increased as if their apartments were rent stabilized. In addition, the law suit by tenants who lived here before the landlord exited the Mitchell-Lama program is amended to include the J-51 claims.
Judge Friedman has scheduled a discovery conference in court on October 4.
Things probably won’t move fast. We’ll keep you posted.
– Exec.Board & Transition Committee