Rent stabilized tenants in a Ditmas Park building are facing a huge increase in rent and it's causing a bit of an uproar. The landlord of 596 East 22nd street has stated that in order to cover the cost of major repairs such as a new boiler and a new roof, they would have to instill an MCI increase (Major Capital Improvement) to recoup the cost. For some tenants, this could mean an increase in rent of $100 - $300 per month.
This is how an MCI increase works: the landlord can take the cost of a major capital improvement, (for example, a new boiler) and collect it from their tenants per room. So if one rents a three rooom apartment and the MCI is $80 per room, that would be an increase in rent of $240 per month. These increases continue even after the landlord has recouped his or her costs. In short, it's a way for landlords to present a whooping rent increase for rent stabilized apartments.
The tenants in this building have argued, that their landlord has not kept this building in good repair, thus creating the need for a new roof, new boiler etc. This may be true, although all buildings would need these replaced eventually no matter how well it's maintained.
This caught my attention because I will be facing an MCI increase sometime in the future. The building I live in is undergoing extensive improvements. They just fixed the terraces, and they are getting ready to restore the lobby. (it's a mess now). So once these repairs are complete, I will most likely have an MCI increase. What really sucks is that I will have to pay for the improvement on the terraces, even though my apartment has no terrace.
Is this really fair? I understand that landlords need to cover their costs, and that extensive improvements can be difficult to make when the majority of your tenants are paying well below the market value. But what about someone like me who is paying close to the market rent for my apartment anyway even though my apartment is rent stabilized? What about the tenant on the fixed income? An increase of $240 is huge and may actually be cost prohibitive. Aren't landlords obligated to maintain the building?
I don't know when I will be facing my MCI increase, or how much it will be. I'm confident I would be able to find another apartment in this hood for about the same price I'm paying now. But, I would most likely need to give up a lot amenities. This apartment is large, I have plenty of space. I have a dishwasher. There is a doorman and although the hours are very limited I do have access to a pool in the summer. It would be a challenge to find another apartment around here with all those attributes, but probably not impossible.
Only time will tell. In the meantime my heart does go out to these tenants who are facing these huge increases. I know there are a lot of haters out there who would comment that someone paying just $800 a month for a one bedroom apartment shouldn't complain. But that doesn't change the fact that $800 a month is hard to come up with when you only make about 24K a year. Everyone deserves a comfortable safe place to live.
While I do think it's possible that the owners of 596 East 22nd street need to make repairs, I do have to wonder if this is just another attempt of gentrification.
I certainly know what it's like to be priced out of this neighborhood.