“Tenants in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods are under attack.”
That’s the opening to the new report, “The Burden of Fees: How Affordable Housing is made Unaffordable” which was released last week. The report comes from our friends in the Bronx, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), in coordination with the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.
CASA talked to almost 200 tenants in more than 20 buildings to better understand the issue of non-rent fees. What they found truly does make it seem as if the neighborhood is under attack.
“Despite the existence of laws such as rent stabilization to protect tenants from high rents, landlords are creating new ways to push rent stabilized tenants out of their homes. One such tactic is the use of non-rent fees, a confusing and often times unwarranted set of charges that are added to a monthly rent statement.”
The report was featured in the New York Times last week, who went further into the concept of non-rent fees.
…some New York City landlords are tacking extra charges onto monthly rent. These landlords say they are entitled to collect the fees under state rent laws to help cover their own growing expenses. But many residents counter that the fees often show up on rent bills without warning or explanation, and that even an extra $5 a month can add up quickly for low-income families.
Translation: using loopholes in rent laws to raise rents on apartments that are already dangerously close to not being affordable in the first place.
The report focuses on Chestnut Holdings, a major Bronx landlord which owns 72 buildings in the Bronx alone.
Before Chestnut Holdings took over a few years ago, tenants had never before been charged for non-rent fees…both the amount and the way in which the fees are collected by landlords like Chestnut Holdings creates an unnecessary strain on thousands of low-income tenants in New York City.
The report ends with a series of demands on HPD and the Office of Court Administration in order to return the power to the tenants rather than the landlord. The theme running across the list is the need for more education around the ability to challenge non-rent fees as well as the need for more oversight into the regulation of landlords to ensure that these extra fees are no longer issued.
Needless to say, we at UHAB are fully supportive of these demands and thank CASA and UJC for putting their time and energy into this report.
UPDATE! If you want to learn more about this report, THIS Wednesday from 10am-12pm, there will be a policy briefing at the UJC’s office (123 William St, 16th Floor, New York, NY). Hope to see you there.