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file overcharge immediately, if you haven't already

Posted by chelsea on July 20, 2001 at 00:18:07:

In Reply to: expired J-51 and previous status posted by on July 19, 2001 at 14:51:03:

First, have you filed an overcharge complaint? You say you signed the lease in July 1997, exactly four years ago. You should go to DHCR immediately -- tomorrow -- and file a rent overcharge complaint, with a stamped date. Otherwise you'll lose out because of the four-year rule. Even if they reject it, you can challenge it, and you'll have proof you filed in time. Put on the form that it was regulated before the J-51. You can worry about the evidence later. If you find out later that you were wrong, no harm done. It doesn't cost anything.

The main argument that a building is subject to rent regulation is its characteristics -- was it built before 1974 and does it have more than six units? Does it appear always to have been an apartment building, or could it have been, say, a warehouse, store or office building? Do any longtime residents know anything about the history of the building? You should ask DHCR for "building detail" records back to 1984 -- that should show the number of stabilized and rent-controlled units. Also, if there were rent-controlled tenants at any time, it's virtually certain it was regulated before the 1970's.

: I think that the expired J-51 - no more rent stabilized situation could be more common than just a few cases, and that many people who think to live in a decontrolled apartment, like myself, are actually fraudolently overcharged. The law clearly states that a building, upon expiration of the J-51, goes to its previous legal status, whatever that was (stabilized/decontrolled).

: I'll tell my story, hoping that it could help people in similar situation as well, and yes, I am going to hire a lawyer, to whom I spoke already, but before that I need to know how to gather some proofs and I hope that somebody in this forum (chelsea maybe?) can help.

: My story is that I signed a lease in July 1997 where an attached "vacancy decontrol rider" was stating that "the building was previously subject to the rent stabilization law based upon participation in the J-51 tax benefit program under section 11-243 of the real property tax law and rent stabilization code# 2520.11(o). The period for receipt of such tax benefit has expired. It uis understood and agreed that the apartment is not subject to rent stabilization law or any other form of rent regulation, as result of a vacancy in the apartment on or after the expiration date of the J-51 tax abatement".
: I signed, and the next year I saw my rent going up of 15% and every year, more of less the same, but last year when I really refused to agree on signing the lease. Now it's back to same trend again, with a 10% increase.
: I am learning now that if the building was rent stabilized before, it would stay rent stabilized. The problem is that building has been under the J-51 benefit from 1981 to 1996, and DHCR has provided me the rent history, starting from 1984. They say that they have no record of what was the legal status for my apartment before, nor they seem to be willing to point me to any direction.
: In my renewal lease for 2000, there is an extra clause that says that "it is agreed by the landlord and the tenant that since the building was completely renovated in 1984 and does not receive tax abatement from the City of New York, subject premise is decontrolled and not subject to the regulations of the stabilization code".

: Now I suspect that the building was rent stabilized, that the alleged 1984 "renovation", (mentioned in the 2000 lease) was possibly related to the J-51 and not such to put the building in the free market.
: My questions for this forum are:

: 1) How do I find out the status of the building before 1981, which would tell me if it was rent stabilized?
: 2) If in 1984 there was such a renovation (unrelated to the J-51) to put the building out of rent regulation, shouldn't they have applied for this change of "status" and shouldn't be a record of this approved change?
: 3) The fact that I have been asked to sign that rider in my lease void all my rights?

: I think that many people could be in a similar situation, but if DHCR has no information of the status of a building before 1984, it seems clear to me that each LL is entitled to just get away with it, as long as they started the J-51 before...

: Thanks,
: Alex.

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