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Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

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

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Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby rentquestions29 » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:58 pm

Hi all,

I recently moved into a rent stabilized apartment and to ensure that I was being charged the appropriate rent immediately requested the rent history. Unfortunately, DHCR notified me that there was no rent history available for my unit, which makes no sense since the LL says it is rent stabilized and so should have been registering the rent since 1984.

I reached out to the previous tenant, whom I happened to know, to inquire about the previous rent and they let me know what they were paying and had been in the apt for 8 years. Based on that, the math seems to work out with the information the landlord provided regarding improvements. However, I am still curious as to why the rent history is missing prior to that and wondering if maybe (hopefully?) my rent should be lower. Is there any way to find this information? What are my options?

Thanks!
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Re: Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:07 am

How old is the building? How many units? Did you request the rent history going back to 1984? (with DHCR sometimes you have to ask for that).

Is the building part of any scheme such as J-51, 421(a), 80/20, gut rehab, and so on? Was there a lottery to get in?

When you moved in, was the lease a rent stab lease? Did the LL give you the 11 page DHCR informational rider along with the lease?

If you know the previous rent, you can sort of do the math yourself to see how the increases should occur, perhaps except for any IAI improvements. Did the previous tenant say he was also RS? Does he have all his papers, prior leases, registrations and so forth?

If he LL didn't register the unit going back many years, the rent is supposed to be frozen. I would keep digging from various sources, but consider filing for an overcharge ASAP.

Also see if the LL has done similar things with other tenants in the building.
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Re: Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby rentquestions29 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:59 am

I believe the building was built in the 1941 but not sure if it is part of any scheme. No lottery necessary to get in and I actually lived in the building in a different apt for several years in a different RS apt prior to moving into this unit. Its a 6 story building with many units across two wings.

I received the proper rent stabilised lease and rider upon moving and checked the numbers with the prior tenant to confirm. They had been in the unit for 8 years and were RS as well. Not sure what paperwork they have as they were just building acquaintances and have since moved out of state.

Is the LL notified if I file an overcharge? I am worried about repercussions of landing on his radar since i love my apartment but want to ensure I am paying the proper legal rent.
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Re: Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:19 am

So built before 1974, with 6+ units, apparently not a 80/20 or other type scheme. So it appears it would have been subject to regular rent stab.

Then the question would be if it were deregulated for any reason. Did it turn co-op at any point? And if had been regulated, but deregulated pursuant to either high rent or high income deregulation, then DHCR ought to have a record of the unit with past registrations.

I would go back to DHCR and try again, asking for any record back to 1984. Look for registrations, a list of all regulated units in the building for each year, records and docket numbers of any proceeding before the agency. Chances are someone had filed overcharge or service complaints in the in the last 35 years. Had the LL filed any MCI rent increase proceedings? Learn to use the DHCR FOIL office.

It's basically a forensic exercise.

For the LL, the magic documents are the past registrations. If neither the LL nor DHCR can come up with that, or any other evidence, then you might have a case for RS status and overcharge. (so might the previous tenants). Yes, the LL would be notified if you file these complaints. Can't get around that. But you might end up with a rent that is substantially lower than what you're paying now.

And if you are RS, and the LL has said you are, then he can't legally seek your eviction for filing the complaints.
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Re: Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby rentquestions29 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:19 pm

It does not appear to have been deregulated at any point since the most recent rent in 2018 was below $2000. It also did not turn co-op at any point.

If I start to investigate via the FOIL office, is the LL alerted at any point solely due to these requests? I want to make sure that I have done as much research as possible before filing an overcharge complaint to avoid any unnecessary bad blood.

As i mentioned, I was a previously a tenant in the same building although in a different rent stabilized unit and was able to obtain a rent history for that unit, so it seems that they are registering at least some of the units. Does this make it more suspicious that my current unit has not been registered (if that is indeed the case)?
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Re: Rent Stabilized apt but rent history missing

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:46 pm

The LL should normally not know if/when you make a FOIL request ... unless someone leaks, or if the LL FOILs any FOIL requests that were made for a specific address. The latter can happen, but it would be extremely unlikely. The LL will be notified if you file a complaint as they have to be given an opportunity to respond and defend against the complaint.

I understand your apprehension, but there will be a time when you pull the trigger that you have to come to terms that you're making a complaint and the LL will find out.

As I said, I would be a bit more aggressive in trying to get info out of DHCR.
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