Q: I live in a luxury rental building in Brooklyn. We have a doorman, but not 24-hour security. I recently noticed that the door to the bike room was busted. After getting evasive responses from the concierge and building management, I learned from another tenant that the front door had been broken into twice in separate attempts to burglarize the bike room. The building needs security, and other tenants agree. How can we pressure management to keep us safe?
A: Your landlord is required to provide you and your neighbors with a certain level of security, including a locked front door and a two-way intercom. But the building does not have to offer you a 24-hour attendant, as most don’t have doormen.
Since your building has recently been the target of break-ins, management should, at the very least, review its existing security measures to make sure they’re adequate and that the equipment is functioning properly. As tenants, put the landlord on notice about your collective safety concerns. “Circulating a petition for other tenants to sign is a great starting point,” said Jennifer Rozen, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants.
It’s not necessary to form a tenants’ association, but it could help you organize. You are in a strong position right now to demand additional security. The rental market is weak, and your landlord may be concerned about losing high-paying tenants. You could withhold rent as a group, arguing that weak safety measures violate the warranty of habitability, a state statute. The landlord would probably rather fix the problem than start a case in housing court for each incident of unpaid rent. Market-rate tenants, however, should keep in mind that they don’t have strong protections once their leases expire.
There are other approaches to consider, too. State law allows tenants to pool their resources and hire and pay for a lobby attendant. While this is an added cost, it may be one that tenants of a luxury building are willing to pay if the landlord won’t budge.
Or, try public shaming. Post reviews of the building online, pointing out that there have been recent break-ins. This could get the landlord’s attention. “Keep it truthful and factual,” said Samuel J. Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents tenants. Include only information that you can back up with police reports, “and you won’t get sued for defamation.”
Tenants may also want to reconsider where they store their bikes, since the bike room sounds like the area most at risk. Bike thefts in the city are up 27 percent, and cycling advocates caution riders against storing their bike anywhere but in their apartment, as even a bike room is a risk at a time when bikes are in high demand.
Read More: Bike Thefts in a Rental Building