Although it may feel like the New York weather skipped the spring season, summer is right around the corner. And with that being said, people are flocking to the stores to purchase an air conditioner. When living in a rental apartment, one might be curious as to the landlord/tenant protections of putting in an air conditioner. Although New York has limited protections surrounding the use of air conditioners, there are some important things to know.
Standard Rental Apartments
Unlike heat in the winter time, New York does not consider air conditioners to be a “necessity” under the law. Therefore, a landlord’s failure to provide air conditioning does not violate the warranty of habitability. In fact, there is no requirement that a landlord provide air conditioning at all. In general, whether a landlord is responsible for the maintenance of an air conditioner depends on the lease agreement entered into between the landlord and tenant. Thus, when entering into a lease agreement, you may want to question whether an air conditioner will be provided, and if so, whether repairs will be made should it break. Absent a clause indicating the procedure for air conditioners, the Courts will not imply a need for air conditioning.
Rent Stabilized or Rent Controlled Apartments
Unlike standard rental apartments, there are some rules in regards to air conditioners in rent stabilized apartments. For instance, in rent stabilized buildings wherein the rent includes the use of electricity, an owner may charge a surcharge for the use of electricity for each air conditioner that has been installed. The charge is to be reviewed on a yearly basis regardless of the length of the lease. However, for rent stabilized apartments that do not include electricity in the rent, the landlord may collect a maximum of $5 per month for each unit that protrudes beyond the window line. This includes instances whereby the tenant buys and installs the air conditioner themselves.
In instances whereby the owner of the apartment provides and installs the new air conditioner, they owner may, after written consent, charge the tenant an Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) rent increase. That monthly increase is equal to either 1/60th or 1/40th of the monthly rent depending on the size of the building.
Procedure for Collection of Fees
For most of the charges above, the owner may collect from a rent stabilized tenant without obtaining an order from the Department of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR). With that being said, the owner must charge the tenant for the air conditioner either at the time the unit is installed or within a reasonable period after the installation. Failure to do so, will result in the landlord waiving their right to any fee. At that point, the fees would be permanently non-collectible regardless of a change of ownership.
However, for the IAI charge, the owner must file with DHCR an “Owner’s Notice of a Rent Increase Based on Increased Services/New Furnishings/Equipment/Painting; and Tenant’s Statement of Consent.” The form can be found on the DHCR’s website.
Just like many landlord/tenant issues, the rights to air conditioning can be difficult to understand. If you have questions regarding your rights as a landlord or tenant, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in landlord/tenant disputes. Contact the skilled New York City landlord-tenant attorneys at the Law Office of Tanya Hobson-Williams. Please contact us online, toll-free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights as a tenant and the solutions available to you.