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"Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

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

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"Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby Rentasorus » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:33 pm

Hi,
I have some very old "late charges"(6 years) that the landlord is suddenly getting all huffy about and threatening. My understanding is that the rules are;
1. DHCR has to confirm these are valid charges and
2 they cannot be over 5% of rent?
Is the above correct and isn't it getting kind of late for LL to be chasing this?
Last edited by Rentasorus on Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby TenantNet » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:44 pm

DHCR has nothing to do with late charges.

Late charges may be allowed if written in your lease, and are not usurious. Yes, I've seen the 5% figure, but I think that's a rule of thumb, not written into law.

Remember that later charges are not "rent," and the LL generally can't go after them in housing court (he can seek them in civil court or supreme court). Some will claim they are considered "additional rent" and therefore allowable in housing court.

Either way, there is a six-year statute of limitations. So if they are 6 yrs + 1 mo. old, the LL can't get them. Make sure you "earmark" all rent payments.

Pay using check or money orders (never cash). I always put a memo that the M.O. is "For Sept. 2017 rent ONLY. No other months." This has to do with earmarking the payment to a specific month.

Keep very good records, and make copies/scans before sending. I scan to PDF's all pieces of paper related to the rent... the rent bill, the money order, the receipt for the money order, the receipt from the Post Office (I send using a Certificate of Mailing) and the Cert. of Mailing itself. Some LLs will try to apply your current payment to rent outstanding from a prior month. You need to earmark it to the current month.

Check the fine print on your lease. It's my understanding that they can only seek rent in Housing Court. If they want late fees, they have to commence a proceeding in Civil or Supreme Court.
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Re: "Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby Rentasorus » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:37 pm

Whoa, I just realized I misread the letter/invoice. It reads "Legal Charges". Anyways, it's not clear what these charges are for, and so that's why I have been ignoring it.
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Re: "Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby TenantNet » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:51 pm

So are you saying the question has nothing to do with late charges, and now the question is on legal fees?

If so, was there a court proceeding where the court awarded legal fees to the landlord?

Look closely at the fine print in your original lease. For a landlord to get legal fees, two things must happen...

1. It must be awarded by a court, and to what is called the "prevailing party." No court order on legal fees? Then you don't own anything.

2. It must also be in your lease. Often LL's will insert a one-sided clause that says if they take you to court,and win, then they can seek legal fees from the court. What they don't say is that it works both ways. If the tenant wins, then the tenant can seek legal fees (if they had a lawyer).

3. Also ... DHCR has nothing to do with legal fees.
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Re: "Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby Rentasorus » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:37 am

So if these are actually legal charges then there must be a court order accompanying it. As far as I know we have not been to court or ever received any kind of notice.
Is there a way to look this up online or call somewhere to confirm?
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Re: "Late Charges" require DHCR confirm?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:57 am

You would likely know if you went to court, either for a non-pay or holdover. Those that ignore court petitions (or don't get one) usually are not still in their apartments.

You could ask the LL (in writing) for specifics on the legal fees, i.e., what case they are for (demand the caption name and index number - don't just accept the LL claiming it was the "case from last year"). Of course asking the LL might wake him up to press the issue. If it's just passive now, why push the issue?

You can see if there was a case against you in Ecourts, but LL/T cases are often removed from the database, so if it did happen, it might not be there.

After a case, the prevailing party needs to ask for atty fees and show they are eligible given the clause in the lease. There would have been a hearing where the LL's atty testifies as to how many hours they worked on the case and their usual fee charged to the LL. The Tenant can then question these assertions. In reality, it's a mini-trial. And there would be a decision.

Understand that LLs often invent such charges hoping the tenants just pay them. Or there might have been a case but the court didn't order legal fees.

You do not owe ANY legal fees unless a judge orders it.
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