Q&A: Changed Pricing Policy?

Q Ten years ago I rented a small closet on the floor of my co-op for $25 per month. Last year the board raised the price to $200 per month. Last month, they raised the price yet again to $300, which is about the cost of maintenance of a small studio in the co-op. In addition, I was told that the closet must be available to the building staff and thus, I cannot have my own lock. Do I have the power to revoke the decision or prevent the board from raising the price again? It is getting quite expensive and my privacy is compromised.

—Closeted in Chelsea

A “Some of the facts underlying the question are a bit unclear,” says attorney Ronald Kremnitzer of the law firm of Pryor Cashman LLP. I will assume that (i) “a small closet on the floor of my co-op” refers to a storage room on the ground floor of a multifamily building, (ii) the size of this room must be bigger than a “closet” and (iii) that the shareholder does not have a written lease for the “closet.” As the co-op is requiring that it the closet is also available to the building staff; I am not sure whether this is because the co-op wants to store some of its own property in this same room or whether it wants access for safety reasons.

“The shareholder is likely leasing the closet as a month-to-month tenant and, accordingly, the co-op would have the right to raise the rent, terminate the lease on 30 days’ notice and/or to impose whatever restrictions it chooses with respect to the use of the closet. I do not know if there are other such closets available in the co-op, but presume that the shareholder is not being treated in a discriminatory manner as far as the rent and other conditions in effect for any similar space.

“Bottom line, after 30 days’ notice, the co-op does have the right to raise the rent and to require access to this closet (or to terminate the lease), notwithstanding that the requested rent approaches the monthly maintenance cost of small apartments in the building and that the shareholder rented the space for the last ten years. The shareholder would also have the right to terminate this month-to-month lease on 30 days’ notice.”

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