Assemblyman Dinowitz Announces Intention to Re-Introduce Pro-Tenant Legislation at Bronx Tenants Rally

Legislation would protect tenants from being charged appliance installation surcharges, legal fees by landlords

Bronx, NY – Speaking at the “Bronx Tenants” rally to strengthen New York State’s rent laws, Assemblyman Dinowitz (D-Bronx) announced his intention to reintroduce several bills that would protect tenants’ rights in the upcoming legislative session. If signed into law, Assemblyman Dinowitz’s legislation would prohibit landlords from charging surcharges for tenant-installed appliances and from billing legal fees to tenants without a court order authorizing such action.

The “Bronx Tenants” rally, organized by advocacy group Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), brought together elected officials, community groups, and Bronx tenants to demonstrate their support for stronger rent laws, which expire in June 2015.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, “There is no higher priority in the upcoming legislative session than renewing and strengthening the rent protection laws of New York State. With homelessness at an all-time high, and a record number of apartments becoming deregulated, it is more important than ever that we take every possible step to protect tenants and ensure that people of all income levels can afford to live in New York City.”

Assemblyman Dinowitz continued, “While current regulations restrict landlords from increasing a tenant’s rent by more than a fixed percentage annually, landlords have found other ways to add to their profits. If a tenant purchases and installs a new appliance in their apartment, they may find a monthly appliance surcharge on their bill even if they pay their own electrical bill. If a tenant has received legal documents from their landlord, they may be charged their landlord’s legal fees, even if a court has not mandated that they do so. I’ve authored legislation that would protect tenants from unnecessary costs by eliminating these loopholes.”

Assemblyman Dinowitz has identified several loopholes in rent regulations that have added to the housing costs of countless tenants in the Bronx and across New York State. One bill he authored, A.555, seeks to correct a regulation issued by the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal in 2005 that allows landlords to collect a surcharge when a tenant installs a new appliance such as a washer, dryer, dishwasher, or air conditioning unit. Though the action was purportedly taken to compensate landlords for the additional utility costs brought about by the new appliance, the regulation’s practical effect has been to provide landlords with a mechanism to add a monthly fee whether or not they experience an additional expense. Assemblyman Dinowitz’s legislation would prohibit landlords from charging appliance surcharges to tenants who pay their own electrical costs.

Another bill authored by Assemblyman Dinowitz, A.8262, would prohibit landlords from charging legal fees to a tenant unless such action was approved by a court order. A recent study of a particularly notorious landlord of rent-controlled properties in the Bronx by Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) found that 56% of tenants had been charged a legal fee in the past year, and that on average, these fees exceeded one thousand dollars. Though landlords lack the authority to charge these fees without a court order, many tenants feel compelled to pay because they fear eviction.

Assemblyman Dinowitz plans to re-introduce these two bills, among others, at the beginning of the legislative session in January.