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Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

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

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Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby Cazmia » Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:46 pm

Good evening,

My question has to do with a rather unique and "landmark" case and bares some background before I ask it..

I am the tenant who came to Tenant Net in 2013, because I live in a 6 unit building that was down on public record as a 5 unit. The owner at the time wanted to vacate us all and I brought our case to DHCR and a vicious 5 year battle ensued. This year, the owner's PAR was denied and rent stabilization was reaffirmed (the owner may still bring an Article 78.)

All the tenants just received rent stabilized leases under their doors via FedEx from our newest owner (who just bought the building last year).

However..in 2013 we filed rent overcharge complaints due to the fact that the building has NEVER in all it's existence, been registered with DHCR. (Although a rent controlled tenant lived in the sixth apartment long ago.)

Having been held up by the landlord's appeals, the rent overcharge complaints are still being processed, so we really don't know what our legal rents are. Although the landlord lowered the rent in the rtp-8 lease, wouldn't signing it be legally binding us to the rent amount on that lease? Would signing his lease be us accepting that the amount he states in it is our legal rent?

For instance, if the lease says $1,200, how do we know DHCR can't go back 20 years and discover that our rent should actually be $500..Then what happens if we sign the $1,200 lease? I distinctly remember a case in which DHCR went back more than 4 years, in lieu of an owner's wrongdoing.

DHCR has no idea when the owner added the sixth apartment, but we met our criteria of evidence in proving that it has been six units for at least a decade. I know that once an owner presents a lease, we cannot ignore it, because that could be grounds for eviction.

I'm not sure what to do with the lease we've just been sent. As President of the Tenant's Association, I don't know how to advise the other tenants, either..
Cazmia
 
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Re: Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:23 pm

Congrats on your win. If this is a continuation of an existing thread on the forum, then this should be posted on that old thread. Why? Because I wouldn't have to re-read everything or say things that have already been said. Or I wouldn't contradict things I said previously.

If previously the LL claimed the units were not stabilized, then perhaps he should offer initial RS leases, not renewals (RTP-8 forms are for renewals). If this involves setting an initial rent, then DHCR should determine what that is and the date of the initial lease term.

DHCR has a thing called the "default formula" to determine the rent. Here's on case where that was used: https://www.hmgdjlaw.com/blog/2013/12/j ... mula.shtml

Here's another one: https://www.landlordvtenant.com/article ... -date-rent. You can FOIL these decisions from DHCR if you have the caption or docket number (I would not pay for them).

I just Googled "NY DHCR default formula" and a bunch came up.

You should indeed exercise caution as yes, concerns over making an incorrect lease legally binding should be investigated. And, as you have existing claims of overcharge, it's important to get the level of the initial rent set.

Do you have an attorney? What does he/she say about this? A situation like this really does call for an experienced hand.
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Re: Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby Cazmia » Fri Jun 01, 2018 10:48 pm

Thank you so much. There was actually a forum member from the previous thread that was following how this turned out. Our lawyers are from Urban Justice and I can't even express how amazing they were.

They took over at the PAR level and literally were on call days, nights, weekends, whenever..they churned out one 85 page brief after another and met after hours in our defense. There was emotional involvement..it was amazing. A lot like Tenant Net is. ;)

The ALJ and Commissioner's ruling was an informed and lengthy review of our proceeding as well-85 pages wrought with an extensive review of the evidence and very educated references to applicable case precedents.

We did send DHCR our leases when requested during the initial stages of the rent overcharge complaint, but we have never had RS leases. It never once occurred to me that we should try to obtain an initial RS lease, because I thought our initial leases sufficed. However, since we are disputing the amounts on those leases, an initial lease establishing the actual legal RS amount makes sense.

I thought we would visit DHCR and ask for their opinion as well.
Cazmia
 
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Re: Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby TenantNet » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:14 pm

Attys from Urban Justice should know about DHCR's default formula and how and when it should be applied. I would like to see the PAR decision if you don't mind sharing it (you can attach it to a Private Mail - use the "PM" button on the left side of each post). Also, who is/are your attorneys? They might have already posted this on the tenant attorney listserv (which is not open to the public).
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Re: Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby Cazmia » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:23 am

Hi, going to DHCR today to ask, but I like a pool of knowledgeable opinions to work with...I was still kind of curious about my original question.

The owner said he just registered my rent amount with DHCR in 2018..but I am going to contest that amount, because DHCR needs to determine the legal rent, not my first lease, which may have contained an unreliable amount (since the building has NEVER before this been registered).

Also, I have never received rent stabilized riders and as far as I know, that is required by law.

Is this a good enough reason to send the lease back unsigned? I intend to include a note that states the reasons above for not being able to sign it.

I have less than 30 days left to answer the lease, and don't want him to try and evict me for not accepting it..

Is that there are no RS riders and the legal rent is about to be in dispute a "safe" reason not to accept?
Cazmia
 
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Re: Owner Offers Lease Before Legal Rent Has Been Determined

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:43 am

There are times when things overlap and that can lead to confusion.

For example, the yearly rent stab DHCR registration must be filed with DHCR anytime between April 1 and July 31 every year. The information contained on the registration - the rent - must be rent as it existed on April 1 of the year. So when I get my annual registration in the mail towards the end of July, it must list the rent as it existed on April 1.

Now, the RGB makes it vote in the last week of June every year. The percentages that the RGB decide will not take effect until October 1 of the same year.

But what about leases that renew on October 1? The renewal form (DHCR form RTP-8) must be sent to the tenant between 90 and 150 days before the lease expires. At the latest that would be July 1.

I have seen the solution to this, but I can't point to a source right now. But the solution is for the LL to send the renewal information to the tenant twice ... once to satisfy with the requirement to make the offer while still in the window period, then again after the RGB increases are known. The first notice states the increases are not yet known and the LL should leave those blank. The second notice should then include the RGB-determined percentage increases.

As for making complaints, the system allows a tenant to complain about not getting a rider, but in 30 years I've never seen DHCR take that seriously. They are supposed to alert the LL and ask him to then send the rider, but there's no additional penalty unless he refuses.

In other words, don't waste your time on that issue.

If making a complaint, you can send the lease back and attach a note stating the reasons for not signing it, but make sure you a) refer to the note on the lease, i.e., "please see attached." and b) in the note say it is your INTENTION to renew, but can't do so as XYZ is incorrect.
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