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Rent overcharge/ illegal destabilization - use DHCR?

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

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Rent overcharge/ illegal destabilization - use DHCR?

Postby b_h_200 » Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:05 pm

Hello!

Trying to decide whether to go the DHCR route or Civil Court route. I had a hunch my apartment was rent stabilized and it turns out it is. The previous tenant lived there at least since 1984, and I moved in 2017.

The previous tenant paid a legal rent of around $500. My lease is for over 4 times that (but not above the rent stabilization cut off). I'm assuming the landlords decided they can make a quick buck in a gentrifying neighborhood.

Some details:
-not given a rent stabilized lease initially
-landlord hasn't registered apartment in 2017 or 2018 according to DHCR history from earlier this year
-told renovations were done, but don't have any proof of it. Would need to be ~ $60,000 to reach our current rent, which I'm skeptical of.
-lease renewal (sent 4 months after lease ended) indicates that the apartment is rent stabilized and has the appropriate percentage increases
-haven't reached out to the landlord and not planning to. Continuing to pay requested rent. Don't get rent receipts, but I have copies from my bank checks.

I am still within the 60 day window to send back the lease renewal, and haven't done so yet though I am planning on staying in the apartment. I haven't consulted an attorney yet (other than Brooklyn housing court help center) because I'm worried about the cost. Any guidance about the process and experience would be helpful. Thanks!
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Re: Rent overcharge/ illegal destabilization - use DHCR?

Postby TenantNet » Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:30 pm

If the unit meets all the other criteria for being RS, and if not above the current threshold for high rent destabilization ($2,733.75 as of 1/1/18 and will go higher on 1/1/19), then we don't see why it would not still be RS.

When the former tenant moved out, and if the rent was around $500, The LL can add the vacancy increase (18-20%), a longevity penalty and the calculated IAI increase.

- seems you already have the DHCR rent history
- failure to provide a RS lease and rider is an issue
- failure to register
- you can challenge the improvements (IAI). The LL can defend them. But failure to provide the rider with the IAI calculation is a problem (although not sure if that's required). You might consider getting an architect to verify lack of improvements, or what the improvements that did occur should have cost. Also, getting the former tenant and neighbors to opine that improvements did not take place can be helpful.
- You said he sent a lease renewal 4 months later? I'm not following you on this, but it might be a way to avoid problems.
- make sure rent payments are earmarked. Write on the memo field that the check is "for rent August 2018 and no other months." Send certified or with Certificate of Mailing.
- if you send back the renewal, I would indicate on a side letter that acceptance of the lease is not an acceptance that the rent in the renewal is legal. Is this on DHCR Form RTP-8?
- it probably would be a good idea to consult with a tenant attorney who has experience in these issues.

As for DHCR v Court, well that's a hard one. They both have pros and cons. You can probably get it done quicker in court. But you might have to withhold rent in order to have the LL commence a proceeding in court. And in court, its better if you have an attorney.
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