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TenantNet Forum Archives 1996-2002
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Re: How to file an overcharge complaint agsnt prev landlord?

Posted by TenantNet on December 13, 1996 at 18:49:54:

In Reply to: How to file an overcharge complaint agsnt prev landlord? posted by George on December 13, 1996 at 00:09:31:

: I need to know how to go after a previos landlord for an
: overcharge that occurred from 1991-1995. New owner since
: then. How do I file a DHCR overcharge complaint against
: previous landlord who may be missing?
: Thanks!

In most cases the new owner is responsible for the sins of
the previous owner. Some exceptions might be in cases where
the new owner acquired the bldg as a result of a judicial sale.
If that's the situation, let us know the details and we might
be able to tell you if you have a case.

In general (but not in all cases) there are three "statutes of
limitations" of which to be aware.

1. For the setting of the legal rent level, go back to four years
before the last registration (which lists the rent as it existed
on every April 1. So if you filed today, you go back to the
registration filed in 1992 (indicating the 4/1/92 rent).

2. As for liability of the overcharge itself, the owner is responsible
for overcharges for only four years.

3. As for potential libility of treble damages, there is a two-year
limit; for the two years before that you get the overcharge plus

Beyond that it gets extremely complicated, but the first thing you
must decide is whether or not to file with DHCR or go to court. Court
does have concurrent jurisdiction as to overcharges, so you have a
choice. The downsides are that DHCR takes forever (I know cases that have
gone on for ten years -- usually due to landlord nonsense) and DHCR
actively and knowingly breaks the law in favor of landlords. Unless
this is a clear-cut case, I'd consider staying clear of this outlaw agency.

On the other hand, Housing Court is not much better. There are good
judges and there are judges who rather be at Aqueduct. (I remember once
running into one Housing Court Judge at a stockbroker's office in the
middle of the day when he should have been in court.) You probably
have a better chance in court, but you also open yourself up to
the landlord's attorney fees if you lose.

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