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Siren in the News

Managing to be….
The New York Times

Q. & A.
Altering A Rental Apartment

Q We have been tenants in a rent-controlled apartment for 34 years. The building was in receivership until April 1994, when our new landlord purchased it. He has corrected the many violations we endured during the receivership, but now refuses to let us have our floors sanded at our expense. We have had two expert floor repairmen declare that the floors are definitely sandable. The floors had only been sanded when we took possession 34 years ago; the building is 65 years old. Does the landlord have the right to refuse us our request to allow the sanding? . . . Marion Moore, Manhattan

A "The answer is that, unfortunately, the landlord may have such a right,” said Michael Finder, a Manhattan lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law. If there is a lease, Mr. Finder said, the lease most likely contains a prohibition against the tenant making repairs or alterations to the apartment without the landlord's consent. And even without a lease restriction, he said, the rent-control regulations may be interpreted to preclude the tenant from making the repairs.

"The bottom line,” Mr. Finder said, "is that even through a tenant might be improving the property, landlords of rent-controlled tenants usually don't want to make their tenants all that content."
Jeffrey M. Heidings, president of Siren Management Corporation in Manhattan, offered a landlord's perspective.

"Landlords do not cherish the thought of unknown contractors, over whom they have no control, working in their building,” Mr. Heidings said. "In cases like this, I suggest that the tenant write a letter to the landlord assuming full responsibility for the floor refinishing and for any claim for repairs by the landlord should the contractor damage it.”

In addition, Mr. Heidings said, the tenant's contractor should be prepared to provide the landlord with a contractor's license and a certificate of insurance covering liability and worker's compensation insurance.

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