Q: The gym, billiards room and children’s playroom in our apartment building have been closed for months, with no prospect of reopening anytime soon. We paid a premium for this apartment partly because of the amenity package. Now, we can’t use it. Should we get a credit for loss of services?
A: New Yorkers who own or rent apartments in buildings with fitness centers and other high-contact indoor amenities are facing the reality that those spaces will be closed indefinitely. Gyms are not included in Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan. (The city entered Phase 3 on July 6.)
Despite the long-term closures, most buildings are not offering relief for residents. You could try to get a credit, but your options are limited and depend on what kind of building you live in.
In a Rental
If you pay a monthly fee, you could stop — but it’s risky, according to Samuel J. Himmelstein, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants. Before you do, check your lease to see if the terms allow it, because your landlord could potentially sue you in housing court for nonpayment of rent. If your amenity costs are included, do not deduct them from your rent, because doing so could also land you in housing court.
Instead, you are better off paying your rent in full and then trying to recoup the money after successfully navigating legal channels. A market-rate tenant could sue the landlord in small-claims court for breach of contract. And a rent-stabilized tenant could file a complaint with the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which oversees such apartments, and potentially be awarded a rent abatement for a reduction of services.
In a Condo or Co-op
In most condos and co-ops, the cost of amenities is baked into the common charges or maintenance fees. Buildings are not likely to be offering residents discounts or credits because they too may be under considerable financial strain. Even if your building is saving money with the gym closed, other costs have likely risen to cover expenses like personal protective equipment, extra cleaning supplies and overtime pay for staff.
“Even if the board was willing to provide some kind of credit on everyone’s monthly statement, it would just get collected later on with a higher charge next year or an assessment to make up any budget shortfall,” said Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the Manhattan office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell.
If you pay for your amenities separately, you could withhold that line-item fee — but still pay your monthly charges for the building — and see if the board pushes back. “It will be an easier discussion if the dispute is only over the amenity fees and not the common charges themselves,” Ms. Smith said.
The good news for owners is that those amenities will eventually be desirable again, so that premium isn’t lost. Renters with market-rate leases, on the other hand, may want to try to renegotiate when their lease expires, arguing that they lost the benefits of the building.