Management Letter: March 16, 2012

Dear Residents,
We pride ourselves in being honest and sincere in all our dealings. We were notified about allegations against us that have been months in planning.

It is not our intention to give confusing legal discourses, we will therefore try to be concise and to the point as much as possible. The following is just a general overview of our responses. Please feel free to write to helpdesk about any detailed specific questions. We will just try to respond in an accurate, respectful, and honest manner to these allegations.

Here’s what we wrote to a tenant(s) in regards to the heat and hot water charge.
It is perfectly legal to have an additional flat fee charge (over and above your base rent) for heat/hot water in a lease agreement. The code law being bandied around by some is in no way relevant to an additional flat charge for heat and hot water. It is referring to a case where a tenant has agreed to pay for his/her own gas meter and then found out that this meter was, unbeknownst to him/her, supplying gas for other unit/s. In that case the tenant was paying out of pocket for something that he/she has obviously never agreed upon. Hence it is not a rent stabilization law but rather a law governing any type of building. The law is protecting a tenant of paying out of pocket for something that is typically difficult for a tenant to detect. The law has made the Landlord responsible for this defect in the gas lines and/or gas meter, for it is the landlord that should know how the meter operates and to which apartment it supplies gas.

The above has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING AT ALL to our fully legitimate agreed upon flat fee. You have not been mistakenly paying for someone else’s metered gas supply. Neither you nor anyone else is paying metered gas at all. You are simply paying Castle Braid a set amount for heat and hot water as additional rent, as per what was very clearly spelled out in your lease agreement. No matter how much heat and hot water you use, you will not be paying any more or any less than this flat fee. That is the very concept of a flat fee.

[Per a very rough perusal on the web, our flat fee is seemingly less than the average heat and hot water bill you would be paying in NYC for the same size apartment on a yearly basis. That is even for people who are very conscious about their gas consumption due to them paying metered gas, not a flat fee.]

In 2008 Rand Engineering did an energy cost projection report for this building. Heat and hot water cost for all apartments was projected at $189,000. Our heat/hot water flat fee would not even cover this cost. Wanting to keep the flat fee low, amongst other considerations, we did not go for the full projected cost.

Rest assured that no one here would agree to pay one dollar more than their flat fee if the energy cost is or will be more. Not even for a moment will anyone entertain sharing that cost difference. It truly will be wrong of us to even ask for that, due to our flat fee agreement. Yet some individuals here are all up in arms that they want to share in the difference if the cost is purportedly less. A flat fee stays the same no matter which way the cost is.

In sum; the reasonable heat/hot water charge has been very prominently written out in a separate rider. It was not tucked away in some obscure paragraph in small print etc. Everyone signing the lease was fully aware that there’s a flat fee for heat and hot water. It clearly spells out the costs for winter/summer.

We absolutely give back full security deposits in the vast majority of the cases. Obviously there are some times where there are some outstanding balances or damages to the apt which we point out to the resident. The tenant is then given a clear explanation for any deduction. There’s an email [paper] trail for any back-and-forth between management and a tenant in regards to a deduction. Any former resident who has a gripe about not receiving their full security deposit should give us permission to publicize our email exchange.

Please be aware that rent stabilization laws are complicated and at times murky. Any honest attorney will tell you so. Even judges will at times come to differing conclusions as is evident from case law. We are writing this based on our legal counsel and/or our honest reading of the code. As with any complex issue, reading snippets of the code here and there does not make one an expert on these laws and doesn’t paint an accurate picture.

Everyone is entitled to disagree and to take every single gripe to court, although we surely don’t advocate that kind of behavior, especially if it’s in the nature of honest mistakes. Either way, we can still be respectful and decent even in our disagreements.

The allegations in regards to rent stabilization guidelines are either insignificant or outright inaccurate. Obviously we agree that however insignificant the allegation, we should have been absolutely meticulous about every single checkbox on every single paper filed. Although the DHCR allows for honest insignificant amendments on our filings, it can cause confusion to someone who looks into every single paper we ever filed.

CastleBraid is absolutely not required to set aside 20% for low income housing. This allegation is outright bogus. Can it really be that we wouldn’t be required to constantly file documentation to verify who are the low income people living here?

After your first rent stabilized lease is up we are supposed to send you a simple one page renewal form. It basically reinstates your initial lease for another year or two. (With the NYC approved increase).

In many case we gave a complete new rent stabilized lease instead of renewals. It may have been a clerical error on our part. Or it may be the right document because our first lease was not a rent stabilized one due to us not being rent stabilized at that point yet.

The important thing to be aware is that giving a renewal form vs. giving a completely new lease is a distinction without a difference. The renewal form simply reinstates a rent stabilized lease, and a full rent stabilized lease also does the same.

Trying to invalidate the increase in the lease, based on this possible clerical error [renewal from vs. full rent stabilized lease form] is in our opinion not really fair, and to the best of our knowledge, won’t really work. Yet it’s within everyone’s right to give it a shot.

We did put in a few minor language changes in the rider to simply clarify some wordings. We might have been better off to leave all the riders intact and not to cause undue confusion about this minor clarification.

Our vision was and is to make Castle Braid a unique experience. We therefore are not shy from adding many different feature and amenities that are not seen ANYWHERE ELSE. Being a trailblazer can be risky. Sometimes a particular amenity might just now work out for various reasons. We therefore put a clause in the rider for everyone to see that all the amenities are NOT part of the rental agreement etc. Everyone who signed it knew what they are signing.

Some critics argue that due to us being rent stabilized it became a required service so that the rider is irrelevant. We have very legitimate reasons to disagree. To point out just one of our reasons; Amenities added all along the course of the life of the building do NOT become part of the required service.
Yet even in the event we might be wrong, in the event that the intricacies of the rent stabilization laws got the better of us, it would be an honest mistake on our part, we were simply trying to be honest and forthright in clearly writing what we felt is the correct and honest position.

Around a year ago when we realized that the internet is causing too much problems we added a rider to the leases of all new tenants that we are having extreme hardship with internet and cable and there’s a very strong possibility that we will stop the service completely. The clear wording in large print surely apprises any new tenant about our internet situation.

It should be pointed out that according to our log, most of the time the bandwidth speed we are providing to each apartment is a T1 level 1.5mg. Yet at peak time it could be less. In order that no one should use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth we capped each apt to T1 speed. Using more than one computer in your apartment at the same time will automatically cut the speed in half.

There were volunteer librarians in the library for months and months with hardly a soul entering. Obviously it has discouraged the volunteers. Internet speed has no relation to this. Entering or checking out a book uses an insignificant amount of bandwidth.

Yes, we did have a vision of constantly adding more great stuff to this wonderful community and we did so for a long while. Constantly pushing for new amenities or fun events or added features on our website. Unfortunately, due to the vibe of litigation etc. our attorneys have advised us to hold off from adding anything at this point.
If we as much as start providing plastic bags for dog poop up in the dog park we will be subject to some creative DHCR complaints about us not refilling it quickly enough, and that it is a ‘required service’.
We will point out again that it is surely within your right to litigate every supposed infraction on our part. Yet it would be nice if we just sit down with a group of reasonable residents and work out a reasonable solution.

We are putting in tremendous effort to set a certain vibe and feel when entering the building. It is our passionate opinion that the artwork in the lobby, courtyard, rooftop dog-park, and computer lab etc. make for a unique and almost spiritually peaceful experience the very minute you enter the building. Our commitment to this ideal doesn’t waver.

Just last year we did a major overhaul in the courtyard design and art furnishing not looking at expense and effort. We are right now planning the front façade. Rules and guidelines in line with the peaceful, positivity and fun environment is reasonable and fair.

When residents feel that certain events or tactics make them feel uncomfortable we will try to arrange those events in a more appropriate area. The same goes to flyers and posters.

If there are any additional reasonable complaints that you feel have not been addressed, please feel free to write us in HelpDesk and we will try to give you an honest and respectful response, and/or correct any error on our part as well.

We are proud to point out that we have gotten very many accolades from residents on the efficiency of our response time on HelpDesk and our general level of commitment to the upkeep of this wonderful community. As building managements go, that is something to be very proud of.
Our goal is to make your living here at Castle Braid a wonderful and cherished experience.

We do not intend to hurt, malign, or demonize anyone, even our most vociferous critics. We ask that this courtesy be extended to us as well.

If you are actually happy with our management and services we will be extremely grateful if you kindly drop us a note.

CB Management.

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