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Weighing Overcharge options

NYC Rent Regulation: Rent Control/Rent Stabilized, DHCR Practice/Procedures

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Weighing Overcharge options

Postby 575MidTownKid » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:27 pm

I've been living in the same apartment in Manhattan for 6 years. The only lease I have ever signed was before moving in. From my understanding I am now, a “month-to-month” tenant, as the original lease expired and have never been approached to sign a new lease. I’ve continued to pay the same rent and have had no issues – until two weeks ago I received an e-mail about re-signing my lease – and do not know how to proceed.

I have developed relationships with many of my neighbors whom have lived in the building for 10+ years – all of whom are confirmed rent stabilized. These tenants pay somewhere around $700-800 dollars less a month than I do. They have told me the entire building and all apartments are rent stabilized - but the landlord just does not register with the city or report the rents. A previous tenant also confirmed she had filed overcharge complaint and was credited her overcharged amount in addition to the new determined RS monthly rent.

I went the the DHCR and got the history of the rent that was reported that confirms the apartment was noted as RS for every year the “registration legal regulated rent” was recorded from the 1980’s –2007.

For the years the rent was registered with the DHCR – there are at least 2 unidentifiable increases that do not align with the Rent Guidelines Board of The City of New York’s annual orders and simply screw up the rents reported following. I could provide more information about that if needed.

This year another tenant I am friends with in the building - took the company to court regarding a rent overcharged and won his claim. The building lowered his rent to the determined RS amount that was determined and he was credit all the $ he had been overcharged. This tenant hired a lawyer to assist him – but I simply cannot afford a lawyer + make just over the amount to qualify for a free lawyer from the city/state.

At this point, I can no longer afford my rent as my circumstances have changed dramatically in the past 6 years - so a lawyer is out of the equation.

If anyone could advise on any of the following questions - I would be forever grateful:
[*]Should I fill out & submit the “Rent Overcharge Application” to the DHCR?
[*]Should I stop paying my rent?
[*]Should I contact my building and tell them I believe I am being over charged?
[*]Should I sign back into a new lease – even though I believe my current rent is overcharged?
575MidTownKid
 
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Re: Weighing Overcharge options

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:28 am

You posted in the Rent Regulation forum, but you describe yourself as month-to-month.

As to the lease notice, given that the LL views you as M2M, they can offer a new lease. An email is not an official notice, and it's not the same thing as a termination notice, still something is afoot.

As you waited 10 years to ask the question, you can only go back four years on any overcharge issue and setting the rent level (unless there was clear fraud). Still, there is no statute of limitations in rent stab status. (In some cases a LL might be willing to refund overpayments and adjust the rent even in face of those possible defenses.)

How old is the building? How many units are in the building? If your neighbors say they are RS, then chances are the answers to those questions lead to a RS status conclusion.

Still, an apartment can be deregulated for reasons unrelated to your neighbors situations, most likely the level of the legal rent being sufficiently high to qualify for High Rent deregulation. You need to find out the rent history and what improvements occurred between tenants, if any.

It appears the LL registered your unit until 2007, the year you moved in. Look at your original lease from 2007. Any mention of rent stabilization? Did you receive the rent stab rider or deregulation notice?

The so-called free lawyer from the city is when you are facing eviction, not for claiming overcharge or lack of RS status. You make more than the limit (which I think is $49,200). But to be honest, there were years I made a good bit less than that and still found a way to hire a lawyer when I faced eviction. Some lawyers will let you pay over time. If you are really poor, you might qualify for Legal Aid or Legal Services.

You can file a complaint by yourself, without an attorney, with DHCR (although DHCR usually is not good for tenants). You can go to court without an attorney (If you brought the case, it would likely have to be in Supreme Court unless you wanted to use the claim to RS status as a defense in a non-payment case in Housing Court). I don't advise that unless you know what you are doing.

Challenging a LL's claim of deregulation can be complex no matter what court (or DHCR) you are in. You might luck out and they might roll-over easily, but don't count on that. I would start with a consultation with an attorney who will look over your documentation and give you an assessment of your chances, and recommendation as how to proceed.

Many of the tenant attorneys who advertise on this site can do that, and some will do it for very low cost or for free.
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Re: Weighing Overcharge options

Postby 575MidTownKid » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:52 am

Thanks for the quick response. Haven't had time to read over as thoroughly as I would like - but it's well past my bedtime.

Just wanted to clarify a few things in the case I was confusing in the previous post - I've been living in the apartment for under 6 years - so I did not move in until 2011. I do understand that I am not eligible to gain back any thing beyond the past 4 years though. But fraud appears to be at play from my understanding.

The building has 2 separate registrations going for my apartment - one noted as just 4 and the other noted as 4W. The one noted without specifying the apartment letter fits in perfectly with the gap missing from the letter specified document.

(on the document w/o the apartment letter) the rent was recorded at 975 for a 2 year lease from 03-04 - but them jumps to 1950 (as it jumps back onto the document w the apartment letter) in 05 noting the same tenant for a one year lease - but notes nothing about improvements. Even if improvements did occur - I don't understand how a 38k+ improvement could occur while the tenants are still living in the apartment. The apartment is a railroad style one bedroom - so its especially a series of small rooms you must walk through to get to the next.

Is there any agencies I can contact to get information about improvements done to my apartment in years past?
575MidTownKid
 
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Re: Weighing Overcharge options

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:14 am

6 or 10 years, doesn't matter. If there was an overcharge (i.e., unwarranted increase in the rent), you can only go back four years in considering it. The exception to that is fraud, but that's not easy to establish (what you and I consider fraud may not necessarily fly). Also, that's only for an overcharge. You can challenge RS status at any time.

As for improvements, you would be surprised how much money LLs claim they have spent. On a challenge LLs must provide proof that it was spent. See http://www.nyshcr.org/Rent/OperationalB ... o20161.pdf

The improvements are usually between tenancies. For tenants who are living there, there can be no rent increase without your permission. Of course the LL will not perform the improvement without a rent increase. (repairs are a different thing).

Most improvements are not recorded by the government. The exception might be plumbing which should be on file with the Department of Buildings. Good luck with that and many LLs don't comply with filing requirements for simple plumbing changes. But things like cabinets, new stoves/refrigerators, and other basic improvements are not recorder anywhere.
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