Harlan Pruden and his partner were surprised when their monthly rent bill had an extra $10 charge. They ignored it for the first few months, and then finally decided to pay it when they saw the charges adding up.
It was only after they began paying the charge that they discovered what it was for and now they’re stuck with it. Pruden and his partner were being charged $5 per month for each air conditioner they had, under a provision of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
The regulation allows landlords of rent stabilized buildings, where the tenant pays their own electrical bill, to charge $5 per air conditioner per month if the air conditioner extends out beyond the window line.
When the provision was initially introduced in 1985, the $5 charge only applied when installation of the air conditioner caused damage to the owner’s property. However, the regulation was changed in 1987 so that the $5 could be charged whether or not there was damage.
Once an air conditioner is installed and an owner begins charging for it, the tenant needs the permission of the owner to remove the air conditioner and have the charge dropped. Until that time, the tenant pays the charge every month, including the winter months when the air conditioner may have been removed from the window or may not be in use.
Pruden said he began being charged about 18 months ago. Since he was never asked whether or not he had any air conditioners, he concluded that someone from Samson Management must have come to his building on Indian Road in Inwood and taken notes on which apartments had air conditioners.
Pruden learned that the regulation was created so owners could make recoveries on damage to the window. Even with that logic, Pruden’s not sure if he agrees with the charge.
“Do we not have to pay a damage deposit also?” he asked.
Joe Lipson of Sampson Management, who oversees Pruden’s building, said the company is charging for the air conditioners “because we’re allowed to charge it.”
Lipson refused to answer any additional questions, asking that they be submitted in writing. By press time, three weeks had passed and the questions mailed to the company have gone unanswered.
It’s a “wear and tear charge,” said Jack Freund of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords of rent stabilized buildings. He explained that the charge doesn’t fall under the damage deposit “because it’s an external thing” and that the air conditioner has “the potential to cause external damage.”
Freund said that damage could be done to brick pointing, the process of repairing the mortar between the bricks.
It is unclear how many other management companies are charging for air conditioners, or how many buildings are affected by this provision.
The air conditioner charge means that Pruden and his partner pay an extra $120 a year for their air conditioners. Pruden estimates that for his building, Samson is collecting about $550 extra every month for the air conditioner charge, based on the number of units in his building and estimating one air conditioner per unit.
“Just because we’re using their window, we have to pay?” said Pruden. “When will the silliness of us overpaying stop?”