From shalomtenants.org (now offline) helpful information, inspiration for cromantenants.org


About the Shalom Tenants Alliance

Tenants of the Shaloms have been defending their rights and fighting to keep their homes for at least a decade, facing frequent court battles and dealing with various city and state agencies. The Cooper Square Committee and Metropolitan Council helped bring together tenants from several Shalom buildings to share information and coordinate their efforts and strategies. The Alliance came together in earnest in July 2003 with the launch of a website, shalomslumlords.org (no longer active), which has helped put numerous tenants in touch with the Alliance and helped Shalom tenants realize, “We’re not alone.” The Shalom Tenants Alliance has continued building a multi-neighborhood tenant campaign and a stronger support system. It is now working with elected officials to prompt investigations into some of the most severe issues, while also collaborating with other tenant coalitions in mutual support network addressing broader issues affecting tenants in the city. Shalom tenants have conducted extensive research, compiled documentation spanning a 30-plus-year period; hired attorneys; prepared reports for the Attorney General (with the help of Union Local 32BJ), and initiated audits with the New York City Departments of Buildings and Housing Preservation and Development. These efforts are only the beginning.

Goals and Outcomes We Aim to Achieve

The Shalom Tenants Alliance aims to create a stronger organization and prevent displacement of tenants who have a legal right to remain in their rent-regulated apartments. We want to:

  • Inform Shalom tenants of their legal rights and provide support to help them keep their homes.
  • Help organize and mobilize tenants in Shalom buildings that are not currently organized.
  • Trigger investigations by city, state and federal agencies.
  • Push DHCR to audit all Shalom buildings, review their rent histories, and re-regulate units that were illegally deregulated.
  • Persuade city and state agencies to recognize and act on the patterns evident across all Shalom buildings instead of processing complaints on a case-by case basis.
  • Get tenants involved in the movement to get the NYS Legislature to re-open the rent laws and address the systemic abuses that are harming our communities.
  • Preserve our communities by slowing down the development of a transient society.
Contact us for more information!



Tenant Resources

Buyout Calculator

Our Buyout Calculator will help you to evaluate buyout offers from your landlord. It's also handy to figure out what you can afford if you move out of your current apartment.

Government Agencies

NYC.gov
www.nyc.gov
The entire city government and all city agencies are just one click away. . . . For starters, check out:

Division of Housing and Community Renewal
http://www.dhcr.state.ny.us/ora/ora.htm
25 Beaver Street, New York 10004 (Phone: 1-866-275-3427)
The DHCR administers the rent regulation process. On DHCR's website, you can get fact sheets and all of the forms you need to request information and file complaints.

Rent Guidelines Board
www.housingnyc.com
51 Chambers Street, Suite 202. New York 10007 (Phone: 212-385-2934)
Offers research reports, information on rent guidelines, and various publications from the DHCR, Housing Maintenance Code, and Attorney General You can send your housing questions to staff by email.

HPD-Authorized Inspections

Neighborhood Preservation Consultants
http://home2.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/owners/npcs.shtml
HPD maintains a list of not-for-profit Neighborhood Preservation Consultants who provide early intervention, preservation and anti-abandonment. For details, visit http://home2.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/owners/npcs.shtml

Tenant Rights Information

Tenant Net
www.tenant.net
Residential Tenants Rights information, advice and advocacy for tenants from New York. You can do keyword searches to find housing court cases and articles about landlord-tenant issues.

Metropolitan Council on Housing
http://metcouncil.net/
339 Lafayette Street, #301, New York 10012 (Phone: 212-979-0611)
The Met Council is a city-wide membership tenant organization for more than thirty years. Met Council's monthly newspaper Tenant/Inquilino, covers a broad array of topics of interest to tenants.

Cooper Square Committee
http://www.coopersquare.org
Cooper Square Committee's primary service area is from 14th Street to Delancey Street and from 3rd Avenue to the East River. The organization actively supports the Shalom Tenants Alliance and serves as our fiscal conduit (which allows us to receive grants).

Housing Here and Now
http://www.housinghereandnow.org
Housing Here and Now is a "new and feisty coalition of affordable housing groups, labor unions, AIDS activists, churches and community groups [that] have joined together to seize the opportunity presented by a Mayoral election year to demand that our city leaders guarantee housing for ALL New Yorkers."

Tenants & Neighbors
www.tenantsandneighbors.org
New York State's largest tenants' rights organization.

Rent Wars
http://www.rentwars.com/
Rent Wars is a website and TV show that chronicles the travails of tenants who live in buildings owned and operated by Slumlords. It hopes to educate tenants as to their rights. Weekly at 6pm every Sunday, Time Warner Ch. 67, RCN Ch. 110. Without converter: Time Warner Ch. 16, RCN Ch. 110.

Laws

NY State Multiple Dwellling Law
http://www.tenant.net/Other_Laws/MDL/mdltoc.html
Probably the most important set of regulations for New York tenants!

NYC Housing Maintenance Code
http://www.housingnyc.com/html/resources/hmc/hmc.html
Housing regulations specific to New York City; overlaps Multiple Dwelling Law, but with some notable differences.

NYC Building Code
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/reference/code_internet.shtml
Construction regulations.

Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997
http://www.housingnyc.com/html/resources/reform.html
Rent stabilization laws.

Rent Law of 2003
http://www.housingnyc.com/html/resources/renewal2003.html
Amendment to various rent laws.

Legal Resources

Tenants Rights Guide
http://www.oag.state.ny.us/realestate/tenants_rights_guide.html
General overview of tenants’ rights from the Office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The guide is also available from the Attorney General’s office: 120 Broadway, New York 10271 (phone: 212-416-8000).

Rent Law
http://www.rentlaw.com/newyorkrentlaw.htm
Various legal resources for New York tenants.

Consumer Law Help Manual: Landlord-Tenant Laws
http://www.consumer.state.ny.us/clahm/Clahm-Landlords.htm
The Consumer Law Manual addresses the most common consumer questions regularly presented to New York's consumer advocates.

Federal Trade Commission: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.htm
"It is the purpose of this title to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses."

Free Legal Advice Online
All of these sites allow you to search for info on legal matters or post your questions and get free advice from attorneys:

Nolo: http://www.nolo.com/
Law Guru: http://www.lawguru.com/
FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/
FreeAdvice: http://freeadvice.com/
Law Street: http://www.lawstreet.com/


Shalom 101

The Basics for Shalom Tenants in Rent Regulated Apartments

Who Are the Shaloms?

The Shalom (a/k/a Ohebshalom) family owns and manages more than 100 apartment buildings housing more than 3,000 tenants in New York City. The Shaloms' management companies include Empire Management (Fred), Gatsby Realty (Nader), Keystone Properties (Daniel), Big Apple Management (David), and others.

Why Should You Be Concerned?

The Shaloms purchase relatively "cheap" rent-regulated buildings then apply a variety of tactics to get the existing tenants out, accelerate turnover, and rapidly deregulate apartments. During the first few years, building maintenance and services decline dramatically and the Shaloms aggressively go after the easiest targets, including illegal sublets, non-primary tenancies, and illegal aliens, as well as tenants who don't know their rights and those willing to accept paltry buyout offers. Other favorites are "clutter" cases, unauthorized pets, and alterations. Vacated apartments are gut-renovated and registered with "legal" rents just within reach of "luxury decontrol." Once construction begins, it is nonstop. New stories are added, apartments are combined and partitioned, and courtyards and apartments are transformed into commercial spaces, often without regard to zoning laws or building codes. New tenants are given partial-term leases and/or rent discounts ("preferential rents") that are revoked at lease renewal time, forcing the tenants to move. Previously stable apartment communities are transformed into dormitories. Since the landlord gets an 18% rent increase with each vacancy, it doesn't take long before all or most apartments are deregulated. The Shaloms have displaced thousands of residential tenants, destroyed dozens of small business owners, and devastated communities citywide.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

The Shaloms' goal is to get you out, and they count on you not knowing your rights and/or giving up. Keeping your apartment and preserving your rights will require vigilance and persistence. You must know your rights and be prepared to defend them. Also, be a good neighbor! Look out for your elderly and disabled neighbors, as they will be especially vulnerable to the Shaloms' tactics.

Gird Yourself for Battle!

  1. Get your apartment's rent history by calling DHCR's RentInfo Line: 718-739-6400.
  2. Make sure you have your original lease in a safe place.
  3. Participate actively in the Shalom Tenants Alliance.
  4. Organize a tenant association in your building.
  5. Document everything: keep a journal, take photos of all problem conditions, and keep copies of all letters and notices from the landlord.
  6. During heating months, keep a heat log.
  7. When you pay your rent, send it via Certified Mail. Always request a written receipt.
  8. Make sure all communications with the landlord, including repair requests, are documented in writing and sent to the landlord via Certified Mail.
  9. Always have a witness if the landlord or his agent enters your apartment.
  10. If (when) the landlord fails to provide maintenance or repairs, call 3-1-1 to file complaints. Keep a log of the dates, times, and complaint numbers.

"If I Just Keep to Myself, Won't the Shaloms Leave Me Alone?"

Many tenants believe if they don't call attention to themselves, they'll be okay. It doesn't work that way -- in fact, the opposite is true. You will have the greatest chances of surviving the Shalom takeover if you report and document every problem, join forces with other tenants, and refuse to let the landlord get away with anything. You'll keep your apartment only if you fight for it.

What to Expect

Reports from Shalom tenants citywide have revealed a pattern of "standard" tactics the Shaloms use when they take over a building. Following is a brief overview of what to expect.

Apartment Inspections

Almost immediately after they purchase your building, the Shaloms will show up in person demanding access to your apartment for an "inspection." Usually they will demand that you show identification. They do this to intimidate you and to find reasons to evict you. They are looking for illegal sublets, pets, clutter, and alterations. Remember:

  • In New York City, owners may enter a tenant's apartment for three general reasons: emergency repairs, non-emergency repairs or improvements, and apartment inspections. Emergency repair requires no advance notice to the tenant. However, access for non-emergency repairs and improvements requires a minimum of one week's advance written notice, and access for inspection requires a minimum of 24 hours advance written notice.
  • You should NEVER admit a stranger into your apartment (or your building). Request ID and written authorization from your landlord.
  • The landlord does not have a right to photograph you or your possessions in your apartment without your permission.
  • You should ALWAYS have at least one witness when any agent of the landlord enters your apartment, including repairmen.
  • You have a right to take photographs and make audio recordings of anyone or anything inside your own apartment.

Tenant Information Sheets

The Shaloms will also ask you to fill out a Tenant Information Sheet asking for all kinds of personal information. The Shaloms do this in order to find illegal sublets, non-primary tenancies, and unauthorized pets, and other details they can use to investigate you. Remember:

  • The landlord only has the right to know the names of the people living in the apartment other than the primary tenant, whether the other occupants are family members, and if any occupant is a senior citizen or disabled person. The landlord may request this information no more than once every 12 months.
  • In addition, the landlord is required to ask, once per year, if any children reside in the apartment in order to comply with local laws concerning window guards and lead paint.

Building Services

Almost immediately after the Shaloms take over, building conditions decline rapidly. If you have a live-in superintendent, he or she will no longer be allowed to maintain the building as s/he did in the past. Garbage will pile up, the floors will not be cleaned, the boiler will shut down frequently, heat will be inadequate, intercoms will often be out of order, vermin will infest the building, and more. In due course, the superintendent will be removed from the building altogether. Remember:

  • Notify the landlord in writing, via Certified Mail, of all maintenance and repair issues.
  • Take photographs.
  • Call 3-1-1 to file complaints.

Construction

Construction will begin immediately. There will be an initial exodus of tenants, and their apartments will be gut-renovated in order to maximize vacancy rent increases. This will continue until all apartments are renovated. The Shaloms may also alter the building, such as by adding stories or expanding into your courtyard. The work they do is often dangerous to tenants. They have removed fire escapes and structural elements, caused floods and electrical fires, compromised ventilation, and worse. Remember:

  • The landlord is required to file plans with the Department of Buildings (DOB) and obtain construction permits for renovations that involve structural changes, electrical work, or plumbing.
  • If construction permits are not posted in plain view, call 3-1-1 and file a complaint. Keep filing complaints until an inspector writes a violation.
  • Construction can be done only on weekdays between 8am and 6pm. If you see or hear construction after hours or on weekends, call 3-1-1 and file complaints.

Vacancy Leases & Rent Discounts

The Shaloms often offer new tenants partial-term leases and rent discounts, fail to provide the mandatory Rent Stabilized Lease Rider that explains tenants' rights and details how the rent was calculated, and require the tenant to pay more than one month's rent as a security deposit. When lease renewal time comes around, the rent discount is revoked. Remember:

  • Lease terms for regulated apartments are one-year or two-years. A lease with a term of 13 months is a two-year lease.
  • The law prohibits the landlord from charging more than one month's rent as a security deposit.
  • If you did not receive the mandatory lease rider, demand it from the landlord.
  • The landlord is allowed to revoke a preferential rent. Buyer beware.
  • The landlord may have registered a fraudulent rent. Get your rent history from DHCR (718-739-6400) to find out.

Renewal Leases

The law requires the landlord to offer you a renewal lease, with annual increase amounts set by the Rent Guidelines Board. (If you have a rent discount, the increase will be based upon the higher registered rent.) The landlord must send you the renewal form, along with the mandatory Rent Stabilized Rider, at least 90 days before your current lease ends. You have 60 days to sign and return it, and the landlord must return the fully executed lease (signed and dated) to you within 30 days. The Shaloms tend to flout these requirements. Remember:

  • If the landlord does not offer you a renewal lease, your old lease remains in effect.

  • Rent Stabilization Code § 2523.5 (c) (1) Where the owner fails to timely offer a renewal lease or rental agreement in accordance with subdivision (a) of this section, the one- or two-year lease term selected by the tenant shall commence at the tenant's option, either (i) on the date a renewal lease would have commenced had a timely offer been made, or (ii) on the first rent payment date occurring no less than 90 days after the date that the owner does offer the lease to the tenant. In either event, the effective date of the increased rent under the renewal lease shall commence on the first rent payment date occurring no less than 90 days after such offer is made by the owner, and the guidelines rate applicable shall be no greater than the rate in effect on the commencement date of the lease for which a timely offer should have been made.

Illegal Riders

If you receive a "Rider on Mold" (view PDF) or similar rider with your renewal lease offer, do not sign it. Remember:

  • It is illegal for the landlord to change the terms of your original lease.

Rent Payments & Receipts

The Shaloms play games with rent payments -- such as claiming not to have received a check, not cashing rent checks for a long time, or adding late fees, balances forward, and other charges without explanation. These tactics intimidate tenants and may be used against the tenant in a nonpayment case. Be aware that the landlord is hoping you will spend your rent money and not be able to pay your rent upon demand. Remember:

  • Always send your rent via Certified Mail and request a written receipt.
  • In addition to using Certified Mail, you may want to use money orders instead of personal checks. This way you have a receipt for the money, you won't risk spending the money on something else, and if the landlord does not cash the money order before it expires, you can get the money back (at which point it's his problem, not yours).
  • The terms of your lease, not the landlord's "general policies," dictate whether or not you can be charged late fees.
  • When "mystery charges" appear on your rent bill, send a letter to the landlord, via Certified Mail, requesting an explanation.
  • Real Property Law § 235-e Landlords must provide tenants with a written receipt when rent is paid in cash, a money order, a cashier's check or in any form other than personal check of a tenant. Where a tenant pays the rent by personal check, (s)he may request in writing a rent receipt from the landlord. The receipt must state the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the apartment number. The receipt must be signed by the person receiving the payment and state his or her title.

"Notices to Cure" and Litigation

Some Shalom tenants find they are not receiving the usual rent bill, their rent checks are not being cashed, and/or they don't receive their renewal lease as expected. These are the first clues the landlord is plotting litigation. At some point, these tenants receive letters threatening eviction proceedings. The most common issues are "clutter," pets, non-primary residency, illusory tenancy, illegal sublets, and unauthorized alterations. Remember:

  • As a rent regulated tenant, you cannot be evicted without a court order.
  • If the landlord does not cash your rent checks, DO NOT SPEND THE MONEY! Sooner or later the landlord will demand payment, and if you don't have the money, you can be evicted for non-payment.
  • If you find yourself in court, hire a lawyer who only represents tenants. Yes, hiring a lawyer costs money, but it will be less costly than losing your apartment and being forced to find a new apartment, paying market rent, and losing your rights as a regulated tenant.

Buyouts

Often the Shaloms will offer a tenants money to move out of their apartments. If you receive a buyout offer, DO THE MATH. It is almost impossible to find a reasonably priced, rent-regulated apartment these days. Find out how much an apartment exactly like your current one goes for. On top of that, add a broker's fee (about 20% of the annual rent), moving expenses, and utilities setup fees. Decide how much your rights as a regulated tenant are worth in cash, because you will have very few rights as a market rate tenant. Figure out how much more the new apartment will cost you over the course of, say, five or ten years. That's your buyout bottom line. Try our Buyout Calculator to see for yourself!

Dealing with City and State Agencies

Unfortunately, in order to deal with bad landlords, Shalom tenants must also deal with city and state agencies. Some agencies are more helpful than others, and Shalom tenants are gradually getting better results as the agencies become more familiar with our plight and the Shaloms' tactics. Here are some tips:

In General . . .

  • Don't expect inspectors to show up and write a violation just because you filed a complaint. You will have to call again and again and again. It usually takes about five complaints before an inspector shows up, and ten to twenty complaints before a violation is served.
  • Don't expect the landlord to correct a problem just because a violation was served. Occasionally the Shaloms will correct a violation. However, they are more likely to (a) ignore the violation, (b) file a certification stating they have corrected the problem, whether they have or not, or (c) start calling you on the phone and sending you certified letters demanding all-day appointments to "inspect" the problem. It is up to you to stick with it, stay informed about the status of violations (see next bullet point), keep calling in complaints as needed, and yes, to provide access to the landlord as required.
  • Make a point of checking the status of complaints and violations in your building on a regular basis. You can use the "Ohebshalom Property Lookup" tool on this site or the links at the bottom of your building's detail page for quick access to DOB and HPD information.
  • Also make sure to check the housing court data for your building using the lookup tools on this site.
  • Be sure to keep your own records (complaint logs, printouts, PDFs, text lists, or spreadsheets). DOB maintains a record of all complaints and violations. HPD does not provide a public record of complaints and erases violations after they are "resolved." Housing court only shows cases currently on the docket.

Calling 3-1-1

  • Usually the 3-1-1 operator will know which agency to connect you with, but not always. If they send you to the wrong place, try again. Don't give up.
  • ALWAYS write down your complaint number, the date and time you called, the nature of your complaint, and the name of the person who took your complaint.
  • HPD will send you a written acknowledgment. Make sure to open these and read them! Sometimes they contain notifications that the landlord has claimed to have corrected the violation, and you have only a few days to challenge the claim.

NYC Department of Buildings (DOB)

  • DOB deals with the physical structure of the building, especially construction.
  • Call 3-1-1 to file complaints with DOB.
  • In general, DOB inspectors will err in favor of the landlord. If a problem isn't obvious, they won't write a violation. Don't give up. Keep filing complaints until a violation is issued.
  • Inspectors will not come to your building unless YOU file a complaint. Don't wait until your ceiling collapses or your gas lines are cut.

NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD)

  • HPD's job is to make sure the building is fit for human habitation.
  • Call 3-1-1 to file complaints with HPD.
  • HPD is actively cracking down on the Shaloms. However, some inspectors are more diligent than others. Keep filing complaints

NY State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR)

  • DHCR is responsible for enforcing the Rent Stabilization Code, which deals with leases, rents, and required services in rent stabilized and rent controlled apartments. It also handles harassment complaints.
  • In general, it appears DHCR's primary goal is to ensure landlords collect rent increases, no matter what. Even so, tenants occasionally prevail. Only a judge or DHCR can order rent reductions for reduced services.
  • To file a complaint with DHCR, you will need to fill out the proper forms, make copies, and mail them. You can get the forms from DHCR's website or by calling the RentInfo Line: 718-739-6400.

Use All Resources Available to You!

Don't struggle through this alone -- many individuals and organizations are eager to help you. Reach out to them!

  • The Shalom Tenants Alliance represents Shalom tenants citywide. We hold regular meetings, organize group actions (such as group filing of harassment complaints), lobby elected officials, and trigger investigations by city and state agencies. Power in numbers!
  • Your elected representatives in City Council, the State Assembly, and the State Senate are, more than likely, already working with the Shalom Tenants Alliance and enthusiastic about helping you.
  • Your community board may be able to help you fight the Shaloms' undermining of communities and address problems with commercial tenants that are bound to arise.
  • Tenant advocacy groups abound! Reach out to Metropolitan Council on Housing, Cooper Square Committee, Tenants and Neighbors, Housing Here and Now, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) . . . the list goes on.
  • Your neighbors are extremely important allies. Organize a tenant association in your building and hook up with your block association.
Comments