By Sabina Mollot
A Stuyvesant Town policy that limits the time guest keycards can be active to up to three months has been challenged by Council Member Dan Garodnick and the Tenants Association President John Marsh, who say it’s inconstant with a 2006 order from the state housing agency.
“According to the HCR (New York State Housing and Community Renewal) Order, keycards for guests should not have an end date,” they wrote in a letter to CWCapital Managing Director Andrew MacArthur last Wednesday.
In the letter, they also questioned a separate policy in which apartment occupants have been made to pay a $150 fee, and submit to a background check. Garodnick and Marsh said that the policy appears to violate the Real Property Law.
“It appears that charging $150, and subjecting people to background checks, functionally serve to restrict occupancy of these units to tenants of record,” they said. “Even if the background check is never used to deny an occupant, is it acting as a roommate charge, which is not permitted under the law.”
Occupants are residents who haven’t signed leases and are therefore not tenants of record.
However, CWCapital responded on Wednesday to say the owner strongly disagrees with Marsh and Garodnick on both points.
In CW’s response, which also came as a letter, MacArthur stated, “We are fully in compliance with the law and are acting in the best interest of Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town.”
As for the occupant charge, MacArthur said that as long as the tenant wishes to have a roommate within the limits of the law there is no charge and as far as he knew there had never been a charge. It is only when a resident wants an occupant added “in excess of the number of roommates required by the law, we do so at our sole discretion,” said MacArthur. This helps management recoup costs that include a background check, he added.
On the topic of guest key-cards, MacArthur said permanent guests cards are issued to close friends and family members expected to visit on a regular basis, especially if they’re needed to care for a resident.
But, he added, “We do not believe the DHCR (HCR’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal) ever intended to create a permanent guest status for anyone who ever visits PCVST.” He went on to say if a guest needs continuous access to an apartment for more than three months, “then that guest is clearly an occupant… Restricting the duration of our visitor cards ensures that we won’t have thousands of ‘blank keys’ circulating around the city.”
The idea, he said, is to keep the community safe and prevent illegal hotels.
After seeing CWCapital’s letter, Garodnick said that he still believes the policy isn’t consistent with the HCR order.
“Their reading of the law for guests is not correct in my view,” said Garodnick. “The DHCR allows permanent, unrestricted keycards for families and friends who visit on a regular basis. Guest is defined as family members and friends who can be expected to visit on a regular basis. They’re narrowing the definition in a way that is not consistent with the DHCR order.”
As for the occupancy charge, the Council member said he and the Tenants Association would be reviewing their interpretation of it with CWCapital directly. Garodnick explained that the instance he and the Tenants Association had heard about involved a man having to pay a $150 charge to add his girlfriend as an occupant.
“The situation we heard about was not consistent with that. We’ll try to find out what happened,” he said.
The Tenants Association also responded to the letter.
“The Tenants Association has always believed that the decision of who has access to a tenant’s home and building is solely that of the lawfully abiding Tenant of Record, and not that of the Owner or Manager,” the TA said in a written statement.
“We firmly believe that access permitted by a key card should not be revoked until the Tenant of Record explicitly directs the Owner or Manager to do so, or as otherwise directed by a court or law enforcement official – and only after due process has been served.”
The TA went on to say it understands management’s challenges in dealing with short-term rentals and “over-occupancy… or what some characterize as student apartments. However, we feel that these issues should never impede access to a tenant’s home.”
On the occupancy fee, the TA said it had encountered two tenants who reporting being the sole tenant of record, and were still charged the fee when registering a single occupant.
The Tenants Association said it also welcomed the response from CWCapital.