Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph - Manhattan Tenant Rights and Representation Attorney
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A window into ageism

When the owner of a building with rent-stabilized tenants does a major capital improvements (MCI) he can get rent increases after filing an application with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). MCI applications can be opposed by tenants and in many cases the rent increases can be avoided or decreased.

One of the most common MCIs is new windows. We have found that many new windows (which are almost always metal) are more difficult to open and close than old windows (which were mostly wood). They are particularly difficult to open and close for elderly or infirm tenants

When new windows are sufficiently more difficult to open and close than the old windows, the DHCR will reject the MCI application and there will be no rent increase.

When tenants complain of windows that are difficult to open and close, the DHCR will usually conduct an inspection to verify the complaints. A problem arises, however, when windows are easy to open and close for a relatively young and/or strong DHCR inspector but difficult to open and close for an elderly or infirm tenant. Unfortunately, DHCR issued a decision in 2000 that says that if an "average person" can easily open and close the new windows, as determined by its own inspector, then they are functioning properly, regardless of how easy they are for the actual elderly tenants living in the apartments. This standard depends entirely on the subjective ability of the inspector. This approach also leaves elderly, infirm and weaker tenant with inferior windows. In many cases the result is that tenants just no longer open their windows. One DHCR decision stated that windows need only be sufficiently easy to open and close for the "average" person. But who is an "average" person in a building where most of the tenants are elderly? Isn't this ageism?

HMGDJ is continuing to fight this battle and hopes to ultimately prevail either at DHCR or in the courts so that all tenants can enjoy properly functioning windows or do not have to pay rent increases for windows that are inferior to their prior windows.