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Understanding RS rental history

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

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Understanding RS rental history

Postby brooklynbaby » Wed Feb 10, 2021 12:58 pm

Hi,
I'm trying to determine if my apartment is still rent stabilized. Since 2016 I've lived in a 6 unit building built in the 30s. On the rental history paperwork, my unit is listed as RS from 1990 til 2005, at which point it lists "PE" - permanently exempt, with a note saying "1st Rent-Vac 4 Years." The history indicates that the apartment was vacant from 2001 to 2005. From 2006 to 2017, the form lists "EXEMPT APARTMENT - REG NOT REQUIRED." However, it gets weird from this point: 2018 and 2019, the apartment is listed as RS but registered to my next door neighbor (for rent that is about $600 less than mine was at the time). Then in 2020, it's listed as RS again to a name I don't recognize, and the rent is listed at a fraction of the previous two years.

Is it that my landlord mis-registered my apartment to my neighbor in 2018 for some reason, and that I'm still actually not RS? Seems messy, but I'm just curious if I'm entitled to any money from being overcharged. In addition to this, the building is being sold so I'm curious if there is any possibility I'll be bought out.

--EDIT--
It's worth mentioning that when I moved in, my rent was $1995. Now I'm paying $2025. It's only increased $30 in the time that I've lived here. At some point, this unit was converted from a railroad into a regular 3-bed with a hallway. The kitchen had a slight upgrade too. However none of the work looks like it could have cost more than $5000. I know that upgrades play a factor in de-regulation.
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Re: Understanding RS rental history

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 10, 2021 2:28 pm

RS generally applies to units in buildings with 6 or more units (can be less if some units were combined or new units were created), in buildings constructed prior to 1974, which haven't been converted to coops or condos and which were not legally deregulated due to high rent or high income. That's in general, but there are exceptions.

Exemptions can be permanent or temporary. Here's a thread that discusses all this:
viewtopic.php?t=13984&p=58882

or just Google "nys dhcr permanent or temporary exemption"

There must be a good reason to be exempt, either temporary or permanent. The LL can not just say so. But ... the registrations reflect only what the LL has told DHCR, and DHCR doesn't check.

It also seems that the LL is engaging illusory tenancies, or fake registrations (take your pick).

Chances are it's all faked. I wouldn't even spend time trying to figure out what they are trying to do. The LL will claim it was all an innocent mistake (just like Trump says he's still the President). He will try to re-register the unit (and DHCR will allow this) with no penalty.

You CAN go to court or to DHCR to assert your RS status. However the courts are more or less stopped due to COVID, and DHCR can take forever and they are very anti-tenant.

I wouldn't worry about the building sale as any new owner must engage in due diligence and assumes any tenant claims. Still it might be better to assert your claims prior to a sale. With either DHCR or the courts, that can take a while, especially if the LL fights it.

Being bought out - if you are RS - is your option. I would also see if they might be trying to empty the building to demolish it and build something else.

You say the rent has only gone up $30. Lucky you. But perhaps the legal rent might be half that. You should investigate as to why the unit was labeled as exempt, either what the LL says or the actual facts. Did a super live there? Did the LL or his family live there? Any record of high rent or high income deregulation applications?

When you say it was converted, did they just re-arrange internal walls, or did they expand or contract the outer walls of the unit? That might have deregulated the unit. Don't worry about the kitchen upgrade, at least not yet.

Being RS is not just about the rent, it's about guaranteed lease renewal, providing of required services and other things.

At this point I would do some more research as it seems you are mixing things up a bit with different issues. I would start with clarifying the RS status history. You might also consult with a tenant attorney.
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Re: Understanding RS rental history

Postby brooklynbaby » Wed Feb 10, 2021 5:43 pm

Thank you - that's very helpful to know that the exemption is not permanent. It tracks that the unit could continue being RS because the years following the exemption are listed as such.

For the conversion, they just rearranged internal walls. Just put up some drywall, basically, moved some doors to create a hallway.

I am mostly interested in knowing if the legal rent of this place is lower than what I'm paying - the potential buyout from a new owner is a totally separate issue and one that seems less pressing right now, because there is no buyer at the moment. However it's totally likely that when this building (and the one next door) sells, they'll be demolished. The sale price is 6.5 million and there's no way they're gonna recoup that by charging $2000 a month for 12 units!

One more addition, and I don't know if it changes things: my lease has lapsed as of a year ago. Does not being on a lease affect any of my rights to recoup any potential over charging? My lease has lapsed one time before, between 2017 and 2019. I've just been month to month because I'm on good terms with a friendly landlord.
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Re: Understanding RS rental history

Postby TenantNet » Wed Feb 10, 2021 6:28 pm

It's not permanent in all cases, but it can be. In some cases, when the condition that causes the exemption ends, it would go back to RS. Also understand that DHCR seems to change the rules on a whim.

Internal moving of walls would not create a "new unit" for purposes of deregulation. While no longer permitted, high rent/high income deregulation is a separate issue from exemptions.

When a LL changes the external walls of a unit, that - in DHCR's eyes - creates a new unit and a new "first rent."

I can't tell you what the legal rent ought to be; that involves analysis of all leases and registrations, and of course a look at the RS status, if it should exist.

On demolition, chances are that might be driven by the area of town in which you are located. (you can tell us via Private Mail if you wish). Some parts of BK are going through intense development pressures, i.e., Gowanus, Crown Hts., Sunset Park.

New development will depend on zoning of the lot involved. The current bldg could increase rents substantially.

On the lease lapse, is it just because the LL failed to offer a lease? I don't think it matters that much, but a complete analysis might be revealing. it would depend on whether or not you are RS.

BTW, do not tell the LL you are looking into all this. Keep it under the radar.
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Re: Understanding RS rental history

Postby brooklynbaby » Wed Feb 10, 2021 9:50 pm

Thanks - yes in terms of the lease lapse, that was something that (the first time) I didn't even notice until a few months after the lease ended, and I never heard from my land lady, so I figured we were just going month-to-month. Didn't bother me. Then I re-signed a lease when a roommate (who was a co-lease holder) moved out, and I took over the apartment. That's when the rent increased $30. Then same thing happened - the year came and went, never heard otherwise from land lady, so I'm still here. She's been very communicative with the whole process of the building being sold, and even has me set up to move to another apartment nearby, so I am treading lightly with investigating this RS possibility.
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Re: Understanding RS rental history

Postby TenantNet » Thu Feb 11, 2021 12:08 am

You might be better off without a lease. For RS tenants you retain all RS rights and the rent cannot go up until you get a renewal lease offer on the correct DHCR form. Month-to-month leases are like successive 30-days leases. If the LL accepts your rent after the last lease expired, then you're M2M (even if not RS).

Be careful about adding roommates to a lease. That can trigger vacancy leases. Adding a roommate not on the lease will not trigger vacancy leases. A co-lease holder who leaves, leaving you alone, does not trigger anything.

Do your research, but try not to start a war if things are otherwise OK. A $30 increase is nothing. If they want you out, then that may be the time to assert RS status.
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