Q. I just moved into an apartment in a full-service condo building. Prior to signing the lease, I was told that there were plans to add retail space and to construct a common roof deck, but that it would not happen during the duration of my tenancy. However, I was notified last night that the gym, laundry room, and bike storage room would be closed for an undetermined amount of time due to construction in the building.
I pay a substantial amount of rent to live in what is touted as a "luxury building" with great amenities. I'm planning on calling the landlord and asking for a rent reduction during the period the amenities are unavailable. The condo owner used a standard REBNY condo lease. Do you have any suggestions about how to proceed with the landlord?
A. Though the standard REBNY lease does not contain a provision that clearly states whether you are due a rent reduction, you may be able to negotiate one with your landlord.
First, you should review your lease and pay particular attention to Section 13 – Services and Facilities and Section 21 – Property Loss, Damage, or Inconvenience. These sections basically provide that there will be no reduction in rent for the loss of standard services (e.g. cold and hot water, heat, and elevator service) unless required by law, that you will have access to the building’s amenities at your own risk, and that you will not be entitled to a rent reduction in the event construction in the condo results in a temporary loss of light or view.
As you can see, none of these provisions specifically address whether you are entitled to a rent reduction if construction in the condominium results in your inability to use the facilities, and as a whole these provisions protect the landlord from rent reductions in the event that the condominium takes actions that inconvenience you. However, you can still make a plausible argument to your landlord that your rent should be reduced because you will not have access to the amenities for an extended period of time. Your argument would be particularly strong if you can demonstrate that the rent you pay is substantially higher than that for similar apartments in the neighborhood that are in buildings without amenities.
Begin by determining for yourself what monthly reduction would make you whole. $200, $350, $500? Base your argument on comparable rental prices in doorman buildings that lack amenities such as a gym, laundry room, and bike storage as that is what your building is about to become. You might choose to frame your argument by calculating the total anticipated cost of the rental abatement by multiplying the monthly reduction by the number of months the facilities are expected to be closed.
For example, if you ask for a $350 monthly abatement and the facilities are to be closed for six months, the total cost of the rent reduction to the landlord is $2,100. Presumably such a number is a fraction of your monthly rent in a full-service Manhattan condo building and thus may not seem so unreasonable to your landlord.
Your best leverage might be to remind your landlord that the potential costs and loss of rental income associated with a dispute could far exceed the total amount of the abatement you are requesting. Further, you should appeal to your landlord's sense of fairness by reminding them of what your expectations were at the time you entered into the lease and of your disappointment upon hearing of the reduction in services you will be inconvenienced by.
Ultimately, your landlord will need to determine whether they are open to negotiating with you and you will need to determine how far you are willing to go in the event that your landlord does not offer you an abatement that satisfies you. Do keep in mind that the consequences for withholding rent absent an agreement to do so can be severe, so get any arrangement in writing as an addendum to the original lease and avoid unilaterally deciding to reduce your rent by sending a check for less than the full amount.
Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.
The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.