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DHCR order reducing/freezing rent

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

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DHCR order reducing/freezing rent

Postby andym5015 » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:21 am

A tenant tipped me off in the building that the RS unit that I've moved into was part of a DHCR rent freeze/reduction still in effect for the first 2 years after moving in - however the LL claims it is not bc the (male) that signed onto the DHCR order for apartment 11(my unit) was not on any leases and/or occupancy documents. The primary (female) tenant was the only person noted on all documentation. (or so he says)

Upon investigation it was an engaged couple that lived in the apartment before me - for all the years they lived in the unit. Now married - but it appears like they moved out before the order went into effect.

Any information on the accuracy of my ll's claim? Should the landlord perhaps responded to the DHCR at the time they received the violation and/or the order reducing/freezing rent?
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Re: DHCR order reducing/freezing rent

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:57 am

There are two types of rent reduction orders (for diminution of required services): individual apartment (affecting just one apt) and building-wide. For building wide orders - which appears to be the case here - the affected units must a) be rent stab, obviously, and b) the tenant must have signed the complaint. Those that don't sign don't get the rent reduction benefit.

The DHCR order will have a list of all affected units. I don't think it matters that the prior tenants moved out. The apartment rent is reduced/frozen, not the tenant. But see below.

There might be an issue if they were not married and the one who signed the complaint was not the actual tenant, in this case apparently a roommate. once they are married, then either would do.

I would refer to the DHCR order and see if the LL appealed it on this basis. DHCR can also make "corrections," but once the time to appeal has expired, or a subsequent appeal order has been issued, I don't think the LL can avail themselves of that excuse. That's just my opinion, but I would check with a tenant attorney first.

Now aside from the engaged (but really roommates) issue, there might be an issue as to how the order impacted subsequent tenants (like you). Back in the 1980's, it was clear, if there was an order in effect, it also applied to any subsequent tenants. But that was changed - I think in the 90's - and it became confusing. If I remember, DHCR allowed vacancy increases, but not renewals, the idea was that renewals are "pursuant to RGB orders" (the language of the DHCR order) but vacancy leases increases, IAI's and MCI's are not. I seem to remember a few court cases on this question. I don't remember if DHCR did this out of the blue (they often do that just to please landlords) or based on one of the changes in the law.

However, not to make things more complicated, I think DHCR went back to its previous interpretation at some point. To be honest, I don't know where thing stand on this now.

As for the marriage, if you can find the couple that moved out, I would see how long they had lived together as an engaged couple. I'm not an expert on this by any means, but I think I've heard that NY was a "common law" state and that couples that live together of X years are considered to have a common-law marriage. You may need to do some research on that, and also to see if DHCR would accept that.

But I would do all my research now while things are quiet. Look at all these issues. Do not accept the LLs explanation.
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Re: DHCR order reducing/freezing rent

Postby BubbaJoe123 » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:17 pm

NY abolished common law marriage nearly 90 years ago.

That said, the DHCR's definition of "family member" as anyone residing at the address "who can prove emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between such person(s) and the tenant."

Not sure if that's sufficient, but something to keep in mind.
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Re: DHCR order reducing/freezing rent

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:52 pm

I never said I was an expert on marriage.

The family member definition would be in the context of a succession claim, not what's going on here. And the couple in question, they apparently no longer live in the unit.

However - and we're getting off-topic - two other thoughts from a quick Google search.

Apparently NY does recognize common law marriages that were made from other states where common law is legal.

Also, some situations can create domestic partnerships. However, I do not know if DHCR would recognize domestic partnerships in non-succession cases.

And again, the couple left, so it would be hard to have their shared living made legal in abstention by a party that has no standing in their affairs.

I just don't see it. But, as always, the OP should get a legal opinion.
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