Some Home Improvements Are Deceptive

As I left my apartment today to come to my coffee shop where I do much of my writing, there were two workmen dangling in the doorway, making improvements to the entryway. Since the landlord has already increased my rent (illegally, might I add) for reasons that have never been explained (he refuses to acknowledge my written letters to him, and he also refuses to speak to me on the phone or to answer my voicemails), this development sent a wave of terror over me — I mean, I nearly barfed because I was so afraid. Why?

I am afraid because landlords in NYC who are seeking to turn their rent-stabilized apartments into expensive market-rate apartments or into even more expensive condos will incrementally “improve” their property at the current residents’ expense. The landlords charge their current residents rapidly increasing rents based on the expense of the improvements made to the property and then, as soon as the apartment rent reaches $2,000 per month, that apartment is no longer “rent stabilized” — it becomes available at market rates. I am sure you already see where this is going. Market rate rents in NYC are astonishingly high. This prices the current resident (me, in this case) out of her apartment.
The now-available market-priced apartment becomes available to real people with real jobs or it is refurbished and then can be sold as an even higher-priced condo, which nets the greedy landlord even more money, while all of the scum, like me, are forever banished from our own neighborhood .. to where?
I think this is what my landlord is doing.
Anyway, since people like me have to pass a credit check just to get into another apartment, and since I have lots of debt due to unpaid medical bills, it appears that I will end up homeless. This is the stuff of nightmares, I tell you!


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Some Home Improvements Are Deceptive

  1. Luis says:

    What if you only pay what you legally owe, contact a consumers’ association and get ready for a legal battle? I don’t know how things are in NYC exactly but if the law is in your side and the alternative sounds so ugly, it may be worth a try. At least I would seek legal advice and a consmers’ or renters’ association may be the best way. Good luck.

  2. speedwell says:

    While I appreciate your fear (Mom was in a similar situation when she lived in Los Angeles and was undergoing aggressive chemotherapy), I can’t understand why you equate “not being able to afford an apartment in NYC” to “being homeless.” I’ve been homeless in the past, and I now have a nice apartment in a city that is not NYC, and I do OK. In fact, they’re renovating the apartment immediately above mine and I’d be thrilled to have you for a neighbor. Moving is tough but temporary. If you do have to move, realize you have supporters among your readers who could help ease the transition. If the low cost of living in Houston appeals to you, for example, send me an e-mail and I’ll help you find a decent place in the University district.

  3. oh, the reason i equate no housing in NYC to being homeless is because i am surviving, barely, on the strong cash and barter culture in NYC, thanks to excellent public transit. so this means i can work for cash under the table, or barter for what i need, and use public transit to get where i need to go.
    i have lived in quite a few other cities and have always had to own a car (expensive!!) to get to where ever i worked, which was usually far away since most places of employment are far away from affordable housing, and public transit sux, or to get to grocery stores. i have had to work very very long hours (usually two jobs in fact) to be able to afford both rent and car payments. besides the expense, i truly do NOT want to own a car because i am trying to keep my carbon footprint as small as possible. NYC is a really good place for people who believe strongly in the value of public transit and who rely on a cash economy to survive while attempting to find “real” employment — although, considering all my medical misadventures and the length of time i’ve been unemployed, a “real” job in science is my own special delusion.

  4. Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD says:

    (he refuses to acknowledge my written letters to him,

    Registered mail is legally admissible in court.

  5. speedwell says:

    I understand. Um, what’s the atheist equivalent for “God bless you?” “May Cthulhu eat you first” simply does not have the right tone. 😀

  6. DRK says:

    I am so sorry for your dilemma. Housing worries just suck.
    Have you considered Chicago? While it is not cheap, it is cheaper than New York. And it has an excellent public transportation system. Also the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Peggy Notebaart Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the University of Chicago, , and what must be an extremely extensive municipal horticultural department, judging from the the extravagantly planted medians that Mayor Daley has caused to be constructed down many streets.
    I realize, though, that with crushing medical bills, passing a credit check is your biggest obstacle to moving. Picking a place to live is secondary. One suggestion, though — in contacting your landlord, send the bastard a registered letter. Then you will have proof he received it.

  7. themadlolscientist says:

    I can’t believe that kind of shenanigans can be 100% legal in a rent-controlled building. Get in touch with your local landlord-tenant relations office, or whatever they call it in NYC.
    My former significant other and I did that when our landlord tried to tell us they didn’t provide maintenance for our heating system (which proceeded to go out on us later that year). We won that one, and the landlord probably hated our guts for the next year and a half until we moved out but never tried any crap on us after that.

  8. Diane in Ohio says:

    Most states have “Legal Aide” based on income….I qualified and it covered my divorce. Contact your “Jobs and Family Services” and get the phone number from the receptionist. An appt. will determine if you qualify. Also consider Ohio if thinking of relocating! :o)