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Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

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

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Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Tue Mar 16, 2021 9:38 pm

Hello,

I hope I can find a little help here.

Upon requesting rent history - I received two letters one for my apartment ex. 1A, one for apt 1. It is odd, because there is no apartment 1 in the building and adding a letter to the number is not how the apartments here work. It’s just numerals. The rent history looked similar where it abruptly ends in 2002 for one apartment (1) with 564 dollars as legal regulated rent with a scrie tenant with rent frozen at 385.24 and continuing for apt 1A.

While Apt 1 history ends in 2002 ( no further registrations) apt 1A starts registrations in 2003 with legal regulated rent with the same scrie tenant being exactly $2000 - deregulation bracket. There was also PREF RENT SCRIE added as a reason for increase. When in fact - it is not preferential, it is still a SCRIE in my opinion.

I submitted a rent overcharge complaint In November. Now the case status is “ Initial processing”. I received a lease renewal today at the same rent as when I started the lease 18 months ago - $2050.

I am wondering if it’s safe to sign it and do I have to sign it and what are the chances I will win the case. Also, was he required to send me the renewal ? The apartment is not RS now but I hope it will be soon.

$2050 for a studio is a premium price considering the current ny market, but I’m willing to take a risk.

Any thoughts or feedback will be greatly appreciated since I’m in this all alone.
Thank you!
Last edited by Bouba2020 on Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby TenantNet » Tue Mar 16, 2021 9:45 pm

I'm a bit behind in answering posts - so if you don't mind, I'll add your post to the list :( If we don't get back to you by Friday, just add a post with "bump" in the body, or send us an email. We don't mind a little nagging.

I seem to remember a case like this where the LL changed the apt numbers. I'll see if I can find it.

For your info, DHCR can take a long time, so don't hold your breath.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Tue Mar 16, 2021 9:49 pm

No worries and thank you!
I honestly did not expect such a quick reply at all so thank you!
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:55 pm

Bump
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby TenantNet » Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:57 am

Trying to catch up on old unresolved posts. Sorry for the delay. Can you fill us in on the current status of things with the unit?

I don't know if changing apt numbers is illegal or not, but if used to avoid rent regulation, then it would be illegal IMHO. There are some cases where LLs change the outside perimeters of an apartment, or join two apartments, where a new designation might be appropriate.

But a fundamental tenet (not tenant) of rent regulation is that the legal rent is a continuation of the existing size, shape and services of the original apartment. If you change the outside walls, then it arguably is a "new" apartment and a new history of rents and services is created.

If there is any indication of two units being joined, or of outside walls being moved, then you might wish to do further research, i.e., with the post office and department of buildings. Also see if what exists conforms to the Certificate of Occupancy.

Talk to older tenants to see if they know anything. I would FOIL all apartment registrations going back to 1984 (if not on the history-you imply you got those)

Your description of the rents is a bit confusing, but it seems that the SCRIE tenant would have still been in occupancy, so obviously there would not have been a deregulation, by definition.

And even before 2019, preferential rents could not have been added in the middle of the tenancy. They could have been lifted mid-tenancy, but not set up.

Was the SCRIE rent in 2003 still $385.24? And BTW, you imply that the unit still gets registrations, so it would still be rent regulated no matter what. Both Pref. Rents and SCRIE are animals of rent regulation - they do not exist for unregulated units. Can you clear up this confusion?

What you describe reeks of fraud. You said, "The apartment is not RS now but I hope it will be soon." I think you're wrong here -- from what I can tell it STILL IS and HAS BEEN RS. What the LL says does not matter. He doesn't determine the RS status.

You didn't indicate if the lease renewal offer was a rent stab renewal or not (is it on form RTP-8?)

Another thought ... without a valid (really valid) reason for changing the apt. numbers, that means unit No. 1 (as you said) is no longer being registered. To me that might be considered a failure to register, and that in itself should have frozen the rent (good luck making that argument to DHCR, but I'd try anyway).

And another thought. Any SCRIE benefit to the tenant and rent abatement to the LL must have been filed with NYC DOF. You can FOIL DOF for any such records (or they might even have them online). When a LL gets a SCRIE tax abatement (I think they call it an entitlement), it usually is tied to a particular apartment number.

And a third thought ... were any other unit numbers changed at the same time? Were all numbers in the building or on the floor also changed?

In one situation we found, the LL stated:

As many of you may have gathered, we will be changing all of the tenant room numbers at _________. This is being done to match the new numbering scheme. I have attached a list of all existing and new tenant room numbers for your reference.

Following discussions with multiple tenants, we have been in touch with our landlord attorney on the matter. ...[W]e will be filing the DHCR unit renewals noting the change in room numbers. We will also be updating room numbers with the Department of Finance for any tenants that qualify for SCRIE rent subsidies. Please note that the room number changes will have no effect on your rent-stabilized status, rent, or any federal/state subsidies that you currently qualify for. The mailbox numbers will be changing effective January 1st, which we have coordinated with USPS. Note that you will need to update your addresses for any regular billing/subscriptions.

We realize this is an inconvenience, but unfortunately a necessary part of our renovation. Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can assist in any way.


The point here is that while the LL might have a right to change numbers, it can't be used to bypass or avoid any sort of government regulation, and all agencies need to be notified. If this had happened in your case, you might have seen something on the registrations to the effect that on a certain date, the designation had changed, but all other things were the same, i.e., rent, services, SCRIE status and so forth.

There aren't a lot of cases dealing with apt. numbers/letters being switched, but a quick search of our database yielded:

This might not be on point though.
https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case ... i=scholarr
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Mon Aug 16, 2021 1:04 pm

Thanks for your reply. Here are the answers to your questions :
The status of my case with DHCR is still “initial processing”. I spoke to a couple of lawyers to get advice and both have expressed a surprise to how the landlord took the apartment out of the regulation.

The apartment is a tiny Studio so I honestly do not think that it has been expanded or whatsoever. There was a scrie tenant in place on both registrations, the only difference is that the new apt number had a legal rent of 2000$ ( deregulation amount).

Yes! The Scrie tenant’s name is in both apartment 1 and 1A registration history. When it ends at 1, than his residency begins at 1A with no more registrations for apt 1, and legal rent at 1A being 2000$ with no prior registration to Scrie tenant)
The Scrie rent was indeed $385.24. The landlord added “preferential” to “scrie”.

I have just looked online and found there were scrie payments.
Can you kindly tell How does this can help me?

When I spoke to DHCR over the phone even they told me I have a strong case…
Now I just have to wait.
I think the landlord received a letter from DHCR - he called me asking to just come see the apartment for no apparent reason. It’s been about 9-10 months now that I’m waiting.

I asked them how can I expedite the case, the DHCR said - you can go to court, but if you do - than I have to let DHCR know so they could drop my case.

I guess I should just wait at this point right?

Or stop paying rent and have landlord sue me…
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Mon Aug 16, 2021 3:25 pm

Sorry I missed your question about the lease - there is no indication whatsoever that the apartment is or has been rent stabilized by the landlord.

I only found all this out through the “rent registration history” that I requested from the DHCR.
That’s where my idea of him changing the apt numbers came from, as I received 2 letters with 2 rent histories which basically complete one another.

I realize that before landlords had a statue of limitations of 4 years on RS units, once that time has passed - they were safe.
But now, with the new laws, if it’s fraud - than the 4 year rule does not apply.

And fraud is all I see here too
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby TenantNet » Wed Aug 18, 2021 3:16 am

"there is no indication whatsoever that the apartment is or has been rent stabilized by the landlord."

First, LL's do not make RS units. They are RS or not by virtue of the law.

You filed a case that apparently wasn't rejected. The LL files registrations. The unit had SCRIE. They claim it's a preferential rent. So of course it's rent regulated unless it was deregulated.

You said attorney "have expressed a surprise to how the landlord took the apartment out of the regulation." But has the LL made any claim of deregulation? Do you still get registrations? If you do, then they don't claim deregulation.

The best thing is to have a person who knows this stuff to actually look at ALL your documents. If you had a lawyer do that (and it was a tenant lawyer), then good.

Do you have a SCRIE rider on your initial lease?

You filed a case with DHCR. What kind of case ... overcharge, service, RS status or otherwise. You can tell by the form you filed (the small number at the bottom) and the docket number it was given.

You say it's in initial processing; but for how long? You should FOIL the case file about once a year. In the old days you could go into DHCR's office, but I don't know if they currently allow that. But to avoid paying $0.25 per page, ask to "inspect" the file. You want to find out a) if DHCR sent the LL a copy of your complaint, and b) what was the LLs response.

The LL will come ups with some excuse, probably bogus, but you need to find out what it is. They are supposed to send you a copy of the owner's reply, but don't always do that. Don't rely on DHCR to do the right thing. FOIL the file.

Tiny studio? You're probably right, but these things have to be considered.

SCRIE payments (actually not payments, but tax credits) can further bolster the RS status. You take all this stuff, tie it together.

DHCR on the phone? I would not rely on them. The people you spoke with are likely phone reps, not case processors. Their knowledge is limited.

I would not respond to the LL. See the Forum's reference section on apt access. their request must be in writing and state why they want access.

Going to court - yes, that can change things. You likely would have to drop the DHCR case before a court hears it. Court can be faster, but if you have a lawyer, then you pay for that.

I would not withhold rent unless you have a reason to do so. With COVID, non-payments are getting more complicated.

"Sorry I missed your question about the lease - there is no indication whatsoever that the apartment is or has been rent stabilized by the landlord."

Again, that does not determine RS status. If he registers with DCHR, then that speaks more than the initial lease. Was your renewal on an official RTP-8 form? You didn't say.

The 4 year SOL has to do with overcharges, not RS status.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Thu Aug 19, 2021 1:09 pm

Thank you!

"You filed a case with DHCR. What kind of case ... overcharge, service, RS status or otherwise. You can tell by the form you filed (the small number at the bottom) and the docket number it was given." -

REPLY : There was only one form available on the website of DHCR - RA 89, I believe. I assumed it would take care of business as I did write them that I believe it should be stabilized.

I do not get the registrations. The apartment has not been registered since 2006.
In the spot where the legal regulated rent should be - the landlord wrote "$2000" right after the previous year "$508", same tenant, same apartment, same SCRIE. Adding only "PREF RENT, SCRIE"

My lease says RSA on it, but it is not a rent stabilized lease. I am not a SCRIE tenant, just a simple market rate tenant.

Thanks for the great advice about the rent question ( to not withhold rent) I was simply wondering if this would help me expedite the process. Shall I file a separate form to bring my apartment to rent stabilization status or is the overcharge complaint enough?
I just looked again - that's the only form I could find related to RS apartments.

Thanks again, your shared knowledgeable advices are extremely helpful.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 20, 2021 6:28 am

DHCR case, OK, you said it was form RA89. That's an overcharge form. But it's still useful to look at the docket number, which you didn't respond to our inquiry.

The last one or two letters will tell you exactly what type of case was opened. (DHCR once in a while converts cases from one type to another). See https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... number.pdf

An overcharge mean s exactly that - they they charge you an illegal amount. Don't assume it will cover anything. For stabilized status only, that would be an Administrative Determination ("AD") case. However, if your main allegation is overcharge, and if status is an issue, generally the R cases should work. Just don't make assumptions.

No registrations since 2006? Well, that does not mean it's not stabilized; it might mean the owner is just not compliant.

When you say the LL wrote "Pref Rent, SCRIE," was that only on the last registration? And was the 2006 registration the one after the SCRIE tenant vacated?

That's where the DOF records come in as they will say when the LL's SCRIE benefits ended, or if they committed fraud long after the SCRIE tenant vacated.

Generally a high rent comes when the LL has done a lot of work in the unit, so they would claim "IAI" or Individual Apartment Improvement. A lot of what they say for IAI's is baloney, but at least many LLs do allege it.

Here he says Pref Rent and SCRIE, both of which are creatures of rent stabilization and have nothing to do with deregulation. From what you've said, they have offered no explanation as to how the rent jumped from the previous stabilized rent to $2,000.

RSA stands for Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord trade group. Having "RSA" on the initial lease does not mean a lease is stabilized, or not. Most vacancy leases do not have to mention that the unit is stabilized. Many do, but I don't think it's required. What is required is the DHCR informational rider. https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... 9-2019.pdf

OTOH, all RS renewals must be offered on DHCR for RTP-8. https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... llable.pdf

"I am not a SCRIE tenant, just a simple market rate tenant." Please, STOP saying that. You do not know if you are RS or market rate. YOU DON'T KNOW! Do not assume anything. That's a sort of fatalism that makes tenants less likely to do anything.

Here there is evidence to suggest the unit should still be stabilized even if the LL claims it's not. And from what you've said, the LL has failed to even allege any form of destabilization.

You've taken the first step in filing a case with DHCR.

The second step is to see what the LL's reply is. DHCR is supposed to send you a copy of the LL's reply (giving you time to respond to what the LL says). But I would not wait for it. I would FOIL the case file. You can inspect it and then pay for copying of only the pages you need (or better, just take photos of them).

Given the pandemic, DHCR might be responding to FOIL requests without charging - ask them. See if the LL's reply anywhere claims the unit is deregulated and therefore DHCR would lack jurisdiction to consider any overcharge complaint.

You may wish to supplement your filing emphasizing the status claim. If there's an actual overcharge, it might be limited by the SOL. But you really want the status determination that would require RS renewal leases and registrations.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:52 am

"DHCR case, OK, you said it was form RA89. That's an overcharge form. But it's still useful to look at the docket number, which you didn't respond to our inquiry."

My docket number starts with "IW" and ends with "R", I was not aware I need to also challenge the apartment status. Shall I file a "PAR" simultaneously now?

"When you say the LL wrote "Pref Rent, SCRIE," was that only on the last registration? And was the 2006 registration the one after the SCRIE tenant vacated?"


Below, is a transcript what the rent history says, so it Is easier for me to be understood by you.

1993 Tenant Name Legal rent Actual rent paid Reasons Differ.
1994 Tenant Name 374.02 LEASE RNL
1995 Tenant Name 385.24
1996 Tenant Name 396.79 LEASE RNL
1997 Tenant Name 404.72 SCRIE LEASE/RNL MCI
1998 Tenant Name 1124.75 SCRIE MCI
1999 Tenant Name 424.75 SCRIE
2000 Tenant Name 462.98 SCRIE
2001 Tenant Name 496.5 SCRIE LEAS/RNL
2002 Tenant Name 505.18 385.24 SCRIE
2003 Tenant Name 2000 385.24 PREF RENT SCRIE - this is when the rent history stops on apt 1 AND apt 1A CONTINUES with the only 4 REG found are 2003-2006

2004 Tenant Name 2000 385.24 PREF RENT SCRIE
2005 Tenant Name 2000 385.24 PREF RENT SCRIE
2006 Tenant Name 2000 385.24 PREF RENT SCRIE/ DRI MCI
2007 Tenant Name REG NOT FOUND FOR SUBJECT PREMISES
2008 Tenant Name REG NOT FOUND FOR SUBJECT PREMISES
2009 Tenant Name REG NOT FOUND FOR SUBJECT PREMISES





"An overcharge mean s exactly that - they they charge you an illegal amount. Don't assume it will cover anything. For stabilized status only, that would be an Administrative Determination ("AD") case. However, if your main allegation is overcharge, and if status is an issue, generally the R cases should work. Just don't make assumptions."

Can you please recommend me what to do? In my head I expected the overcharge to be connected to this case. I anticipated the return to stabilization will happen after DHCR analyzes the history.

"You may wish to supplement your filing emphasizing the status claim. If there's an actual overcharge, it might be limited by the SOL. But you really want the status determination that would require RS renewal leases and registrations."

Can you tell me how to supplement that?

Thank you for all your help!
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 20, 2021 12:28 pm

The "IW" is the year and month the complaint was made. The "R" indicates it's an overcharge, at least that's how it is now. As explained, DHCR on occasion changes cases on its own or makes decision on two things at once: status and overcharge.

No, YOU should not challenge the RS status. Your filing in itself assumes you believe it is RS. It's up to the LL to challenge that and explain why they think it is not RS. That's why you need to FOIL the file to see what defense the LL is using. All that other stuff ... you WAIT UNTIL the LL
challenges the status. For all you know, the LL might say "oops, we forgot to register," at which time any status issue becomes a non-issue.

NO, a PAR is an appeal, it is not a supplement to an active case.

On tghe history, it seems normal up until 1997 when a) it becomes SCRIE due to the tenant being qualified as to age and income, and b) a claim of an MCI which seems to increase the rent from $404 to $1124.

You should FOIL a copy of that MCI decision (ask for any MCI order for the building) and understand that prior to 2019 MCI's were limited to 6% increases per year. I doubt there was a $700 MCI increase, but you need to check.

Also understand that registrations are submitted by the owner and DHCR never checks unless challenged. SO the fact that it says MCI does not mean there actually was a MCI, or the amount being claimed.

Then it seems to go back to $424 and what looks like normal increases up to 2002 when it's at $505. I would check all these increases with the RGB orders.

2003 - as you explained, it jumps to $2,000 with no explanation.

Then three more years of registrations with "Pref Rent/SCRIE" OK, so understand that Pref Rents and SCRIE exist only for RS units. But they do not work together. If the legal rent is $505 and the SCRIE (frozen) rent is $385, that means the tenant pays only the $385 and the rest $120 or so, is given to the LL as a tax abatement. This has nothing to do with Pref Rent. In fact, with SCRIE, any Pref Rent (if it did exist) becomes moot.

2006 - they state MCI - so also FOIL that one. There would be an order granting a MCI increase (or not). The "SCRIE/DRI" is for DRIE a modified form of SCRIE. Ignore that.

And from 2007, the LL just ignores registrations altogether. In my opinion, this is about status, which is why you want to see what the LL is claiming to DHCR. They often lie and DHCR often accepts the lie, so you may need to submit more info bolstering your RS status claim. It will depend on what the LL says.

OK, at this point you need to FOIL the case file. I do it once a year for active cases.

As for other stuff, I can't always walk you through this step-by-step; you're going to have to figure out how to do this stuff on your own. BTW, use Google a lot.
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Re: Landlord Changed apartment number and deregulated it

Postby Bouba2020 » Fri Aug 20, 2021 1:21 pm

Thank you for your enormous help.
I will follow your wise advice.
I will keep everyone posted along the way and hopefully will be able to share good news with you one day.
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