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Dear Sam: I live in a brand-new "80/20" building, and the landlord is adding in a brand new laundry room. Is it legal for them to only offer it only to market-rate tenants, or to charge only the subsidized tenants a fee?
In most 80/20 buildings, it should not be legal for the landlord to allow some tenants but not others access to the building's amenities, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
"Under the 80/20 program, there’s the general rule that the tenants of the affordable units must be provided the same or comprable amenities and common areas as other tenants," explains Himmelstein's colleague Ronald Languedoc. "Since the 'poor door' controversy a few years ago, the city has changed its rules to eliminate the possibility [of that kind of discrimination]." Similarly, it's likely not legal for the building to charge some tenants for access to the laundry room, but not others.
If you suspect your landlord is illegally keeping some tenants from accessing the laundry room, you can use ACRIS to find the building's regulatory agreement, which is a public document and will detail the owner's obligations, including what they're legally required to offer to all tenants. From there, a good first step is to contact the landlord and simply ask for equal access, and failing that, file a Reduction of Services complaint with the DHCR.
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.
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