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Can landlord collect underpaid rent from 2 years ago?

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Can landlord collect underpaid rent from 2 years ago?

Postby steshe » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:15 pm

I have lived in the same apartment / building for nearly 6 years. I recently received a notice from my landlord that I owe nearly $1000 from underpayments on my rent from over two years ago. I never received any notices until now that I had underpaid. The landlord renewed my lease two times since the alleged underpayment and this issue was never raised in the renewal negotiations.

Does the landlord have any right to claim/collect these underpayments given the applicable lease has long been expired or have his rights been terminated? Can I be evicted or be brought to court given I am still in the same apartment?
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:21 pm

Possibly. Please explain how the underpayments came to be. If you have a lease for (as an example) $1,000 per month, and you pay $900, then you've not paid the full amount. But if you paid the full amount on the lease, and if the LL comes back later and claims the rent was for $1100, then that's a different issue altogether.

So can you expand on the circumstances please?
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Postby steshe » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:32 pm

The underpayments were due to a concession given to many tenants in our building. The balconies were undergoing repairs and we were given a $100/month concession until the repairs were completed. I continued to pay $100 less each month until I received notice from the landlord that the concession was no longer applicable. The landlord was basically asleep at the wheel and didn't provide notice for a long time, at which point I paid my 'regular' rent again.

So to use your example, I was theoretically paying $900/month when the rent was $1000/month, however this underpayment was because the landlord gave a concession that left the end date of the concession open ended.

If I were no longer living in this apartment, I don't believe the landlord would be coming after me for the money. The landlord is one of these very large corporations.
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Postby steshe » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:34 pm

Also, keep in mind I never received any notices for underpayment until now - two years later. If I had underpaid, shouldn't the landlord have notified me immediately? By renewing my lease two times without notifying me of any past underpayment, is it not implicit acceptance that I abided by all terms of my previous leases?
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:41 pm

Was the concession in writing, or as an addendum or rider to the lease, either original or renewal lease? Is it something you agreed to, or was there a negotiation with the LL with a tenants association (if there is one)? If so, what did it actually say?

Was the concession indicated on the monthly rent bills?
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Postby steshe » Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:46 pm

Yes the concession was in writing. It was basically an official letter from the landlord stuck under our door and was given to any tenant in the building with a balcony (approximately 200 out of 300 units). Given the amount of time that has passed I don't have the actual letter any more.

In addition, the landlord does not provide monthly rent bills or receipts. I just pay the rent each month with a check sent directly from my bank and there's no paperwork.
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Nov 26, 2011 6:32 pm

This will teach you to not toss things away (or scan into your computer ... including envelopes with postmarks).

If it was a generic letter see if you can find another tenant with one. And don't let the LL know you lost yours.

It's important to see what was on that letter, especially if there was an end date for the concession.

By law, the LL must provide a receipt if requested. Bills are not required, but larger companies seem to provide those. Paperwork is what can save you in situations like this.

To give you half an answer, given that the rent not paid was a few years ago, he can't take you to Housing Court. That's called "laches" or "stale rent."

He would need to commence a full court case in either Civil Court or Supreme Court. Depending on the amount it may or may not be worthwhile to the LL. Of course they will attempt to intimidate you.

The bad news is that the statute of limitations for back rent is six years. Without the letter it's hard to say if he has a case, or if you do.

I would stand my ground depending on the wording of the letter. But you might consider a negotiation and some compromise. Even if the LL doesn't bill you monthly, I would think that if arrears were accumulating, it's the LL's burden to make you aware of that.
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Postby concord » Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:40 am

Your submission suggests that the LL reduced your rent for a period of time because access to your balcony was restricted for that amount of time.

Your submission also suggests that when the LL notified you that you must resume making payment for balcony access, now that such access had been restored that, you went ahead and complied with the request and you made regular payments going forward.

If it is that simple then it appears that you have paid what you owed.


As tenantnet mentioned, it comes down to what either side can prove with paperwork.

The LL shall claim that the balcony was made accessible to you long before the date that you started paying the extra $100 again. He will say that he requested from you to make those payments and that you refused to do so.

If you have something that shows that you started making payments of the extra $100 right when the LL requested it then you are looking good because there would have been no reason for the LL to not have requested such money upon completion. That is, your understanding is that the LL requested the extra hundred when the balcony was completed, period.

For the LL to go back two years and say that the work was completed at an earlier time than when he demanded the restoration of the full payment from you sounds like a losing battle to me. Devoid of paperwork, it is your word against his that you started paying the full amount upon completion of the balcony work.


But if you make a bad presentation in court you can still lose. I’ve seen it happen.
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