EV Grieve reader EVFlip wrote the following article... Per EVFlip: "Recently, due to a change in my building's ownership, I've become more active in housing issues. I always thought I was the only one who didn't know about NYC rent laws, but as I speak with more and more neighbors, I find that very few people know their rights."
As Mayor Bloomburg pursues rebranding New York City as a "luxury item," paving the way for aggressive landlords to clean house, New Yorkers need to educate themselves regarding their rights. Many of us have a vague idea of our housing rights and the laws concerning rent stabilized apartments.
If your building has six or more units and was built before 1973, then probably your apartment is, or once was stabilized. If your apartment is not currently rent stabilized, then you still need to know about rent stabilization! Roughly, an estimated 20,000 apartments are destabilized each year. Many are destabilized illegally. The tenant has four years to catch an overcharge before it becomes permanent. Illegal overcharges consistently lead to the illegal destabilization of rent stabilized apartments.
Too many of us depend on the perceived trustworthiness of real-estate agents, managing agents, and landlords. Their job is to turn a profit, not to advocate for you. Just because you are presented with a lease stating that your apartments rent is X, does not mean that X is the legal rent. There is no state or city agency that will catch this. It is your responsibility to find out.
So what can you do?
Get your rent history! It is a simple phone call, (718) 739-6400. You'll go through a short automated menu, and then you'll speak to an operator. Ask for your full rent history, back to 1984. The operator will ask for your name and address and that's it. In a few days, you'll receive your rent history in the mail.
Some management companies specialize is prepping buildings for sale. One way to do this is preferred rents. A stabilized apartment for $1600/month may be offered to let at $1,200/month. A great deal right? Aren't they nice! Except that this preferred rent may be recinded and then a tenant is left with not only the rent increase designated by the rent Guidelines Board (RGB), but the $400 difference.
When a tenant in a rent stabilized unit moves out, the landlord is entitled to a 20% vacancy increase. It behooves any managing agent to have a high turnover on stabilized apartments. In one paricular building on East 4th street, HALF the apartment were stealthily destabilized. Tenants were told it was a "stabilized building" and they never questioned the agents. When the building was sold to a real estate equity firm, unsuspecting tenants found themselves with doubled rents.
Get a copy of Tenants Rights' Guide. It can be downloaded or you can get a printed version at the Cooper Square Committee. To download a copy go here.
Where can you find help?
If there is any question you might have about your lease, repairs, confrontations with your landlord/managing agent, or any housing issues there is help.
Cooper Square Committee (You can pick up a Tenants' Rights Guide here)
61 East 4th Street
Metropolitan Council on Housing
339 Lafayette Street, #301
212-979-0611 (hotline Mon-Wed-Fri 1:30 to 5 p.m.)
University Settlement (Project Home)
184 Eldridge Street (at Rivington Street)
Also, Henry Street Settlement, GOLES and Tenants and Neighbors too!
So, whether you are in a stabilized unit or not; get your rent history, be aware, and don't assume that your best interest is being looked after...it is not.