By Sabina Mollot
Residents who’ve recently called for plumbing work have been getting more than just their sinks checked.
According to one family in Stuyvesant Town, an appointment last week to have a drain snaked turned into a surprise apartment inspection when the maintenance worker assigned to the job also opened closed bedroom doors and asked the residents questions about their counter tops and appliances.
A resident of the apartment at 280 First Avenue, who asked that his name not be published, said the employee also frightened his adult daughter, who was in her room when he opened the door — without knocking. While the father was in another room, he said the worker breezed into his daughter’s room, telling her he was looking for air conditioners.
After the dad confronted him, the workers was “very apologetic,” saying management was making him to do it.
The employee also produced paperwork showing notes he’d taken at other apartments he’d been working in, and that he was supposed to ask if people had air conditioners.
The employee then asked if the family had a dishwasher and also asked about the countertop in the kitchen, which is when the resident said he told the worker to cut the questioning. The resident said that again the employee was very apologetic and left soon afterwards.
Meanwhile, the tenant noted, his unrenovated apartment had already been inspected by management months earlier, which is why the latest round of questioning seemed strange. “We let them look at everything. No doors were shut,” he said. “There was no reason for them to re-inspect the apartment.”
Apartment inspections began in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village last May. At that time, CWCapital said the purpose was to ensure compliance with building code, lease terms and community rules.
“Inspectors will be looking for issues such as unsafe conditions, unregistered dogs and compliance with the 80 percent carpet rule,” CW spokesperson Brian Moriarty had said. “Any unit that is out of compliance will be given a notice to correct whatever issues are found.”
When asked about the recent surprise inspection, Moriarty told Town & Village it had to do with appliances and fixtures.
“Maintenance staff responding to service calls will sometimes survey a residence in order to update our records of appliances and fixtures in the unit,” he said. “Having this information allows us to be better prepared with the correct parts the next time there is a maintenance request.”
Following the impromptu inspection last Tuesday, the resident’s wife wrote about the incident on the Tenants Association’s Facebook page. In response, two neighbors said they had similar experiences recently.
One of the residents noted her apartment had already been inspected, “so I don’t know what he is really looking for,” she said, although the maintenance worker had asked about air conditioners.
Another neighbor, however, said he wasn’t disturbed by the experience because the worker was nice and asked his permission before inspecting the place. He’d asked about brands of appliances and if there were any air conditioners.
Last year, the ST-PCV Tenants Association expressed concern about apartment inspections, after hearing about several cases of unauthorized entry. In at least two cases, the TA had complaints from tenants that inspections were conducted while they weren’t home at times that were not agreed upon. Residents in some cases were told the inspections were for pressurized walls.
On the inspections by maintenance workers, Susan Steinberg, chair of the Tenants Association, said she’d heard a rumor about surprise inspections several months ago, but didn’t know if it was really happening.
She also said it brought up memories of how Met Life once attempted to oust rent-stabilized tenants who owned pets by offering a $150 gift card bounty to maintenance employees who’d agree to rat them out.
“It was unfortunate then and unfortunate now,” said Steinberg. “Tenants should not have to live in an atmosphere of fear that granting access to their apartments for the fix of a slow drain turns into an opportunity for a sneak inspection.
“This becomes yet another situation in which tenants, suspicious of the owner’s motivations, will feel it necessary to be home anytime they have a service appointment rather than granting management access, greatly inconveniencing those who work.
“I encourage tenants who get surprised in this manner to let the Tenants Association know.”