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Dear Landlord: Where’s Our Building Canopy?

August 29, 2105

By Ronda Kaysen

Punishment by Canopy

More than two years ago, our landlord removed the canopy in front of our apartment building because he wanted to make it less comfortable in rain or strong sunlight for building staff, who were picketing over a labor disagreement. The issues have been more or less settled, but the canopy has not been replaced. Our building, which has a mix of rent-stabilized and market-rate tenants, is in a reasonably upscale neighborhood, and all the other comparable buildings have canopies in good condition. It is frequently inconvenient, especially on rainy days, not to have the canopy. Is our landlord under any legal obligation to restore it?

Midtown East, Manhattan

Your landlord certainly found an odd device to use as a cudgel against disgruntled employees, since it ultimately reduces the value of his property. A canopy “is a service to the building, it creates value for him when he’s renting his apartments,” said Steven W. Birbach, the president of Vanderbilt Property Management.

While the market-rate tenants have no leverage here, the rent-regulated ones can certainly make some noise to get that canopy back.

Depending on when the canopy was installed, striking it could be considered a reduction of services, entitling rent-regulated tenants to a rent reduction, according to Dov Treiman, a landlord-tenant lawyer. The tenants should file a complaint with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which oversees such apartments. There is no fee.

Once tenants start paying a reduced rent, the landlord may realize the high cost of his decision. “When the landlord does the math,” Mr. Birbach said, “he’ll quickly install the canopy.”

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