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Westchester Rent-Stabilized

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Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sat May 30, 2020 2:22 pm

Hi everyone!  

I live in a rent-stabilized studio in Westchester. I have requested and received the registration apartment information from the div of housing and community renewal. 

1) I read "Number of Rooms: 2" at the top of the document, but really my unit is a studio with a separate bathroom and a doorless kitchen. Can that be counted as a unit with 2 rooms?

2) The second question is related to the first: the legal rent is in the $1,900 when it was in the $1,200 five years ago. Does registering the unit as a 2 room unit affect the legal rent? 

3) How much is the legal rent for a studio?

4) The last tenant shown on the document is the one who preceded me . I have been occupying the unit since 09.01.2019 but am not on the document. Is that normal?

Thanks!

Paul
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun May 31, 2020 12:05 pm

For RS units, the number of rooms usually does not matter, but it does come into play when calculating MCI rent increases.

DHCR has a Policy Statement regarding how to determine the room count. See https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... formci.pdf

See if that answers your question.

Also, understand that Westchester Rent Stab is very similar to NYC rent stab ... but it's not exactly the same in all cases.

If the "legal" rent is/was exactly $1200 and $1900, then chances are the LL is committing a little fraud. That's because RGB increase result in almost never and exact amount.

Legal rents are based on a cumulative addition of percentages over time. There is no legal rent for a generic studio.

As for registrations, they are required to be sent to tenant (and filed with DHCR) by July 31 of each year. They must list the tenant and rent as it existed on April 1 of each year). So your name should not appear until the registration to be filed later this summer.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:08 am

Thank you so much for your reply TenantNet

Sorry for the delayed response, I forgot to check this thread.

Looking at the registration document, it looks like the biggest jump in the legal rent (over $300) happened between a lease that ended in June 2018 and another one that started in September 2018. Between the two leases, the legal rent switched from 1,500s to 1,800s.

1) Is there any way that is legal?

2) Should I tell the landlord about it?

3) Should I file a complaint? (the landlord is charging me $500 less than the legal rent but the rent increase is based on the legal rent)

Thanks again!

Paul
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:00 pm

Do not approach the LL, at least not now. You need to do some quiet research without him knowing about it. Do you know how to contact the old tenant who had the place before you? You can ask your neighbors about any work that was done in the place. Most large increase are from apt. improvements between tenants (IAI's).

Look at the DHCR informational rider that should have been attached to your original lease. It's usually 12 pages and it should say how the new rent was calculated. Also look at the registrations going back a number of years to see the reason for all increases.

Then you can calculate the legal increases using the RGB percentages.

You will also need to look into the preferential rent as it applies to your apartment. PR rules were changed in 2019, so see if your lower rent is frozen for the life of your tenancy. And if there is an overcharge, you will need to see if that applies to the legal rent, the PR, or both.

Only after you've done all the research should you consider a complaint with DHCR. But make sure you do it within 4 years of your moving in (the SOL was changed to 6 years, but that might not apply to pre- June 2019 rents).
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:49 pm

Thank you so much for your reply.
I know the tenant who moved in in Sep. 2018. I'll ask them about any improvements.
For the $300 hike, the reason on the registration document for the change is "vac/lease". The unit has been vacant for 2 months (July and August 2018).

How can I check if my unit is rent-freezed? It looks like the board of Westchester has approved rent increase for RS units in summer 2019:
https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/ ... 522739001/

My lease ends on Aug 31st. If I don't renew my lease but continue to pay (the same) rent each month after the lease ends, does this give the landlord the right to ask me to leave with a 1-month notice? Does it then become easy for him to evict me even if I'm paying the rent on time?

Thank you so much!
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jun 07, 2020 1:58 pm

See https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... 20ETPA.pdf

This is the lease renewal form for ETPA tenants (Westchester and outside of NYC). Read the instructions very carefully as they outline the various deadlines. The LL is required to send you a renewal lease offer between 90 and 120 days prior to the current lease's expiration. That means today, 6/7/20, he's already late if you didn't get the renewal. (you didn't say)

In most cases, it's actually better to NOT get a renewal lease offer. You still retain your RS rights, and the rent does not go up. So why remind him?

As long as there is no new lease, the rent does not go up. Read the RTP-8 instructions.

That is also why - if you research the question about the legal rent, and if it's not that much, it's probably wiser to not make a stink with the LL if your rent is frozen. I know tenants where LL's didn't bother with renewal leases for ten years or more, and their rents didn't change. So consider the trade-offs.

The one-month notice is not for RS tenants (but double-check that with a tenant lawyer). Some say that if your lease expires and if you don't sign a renewal, then you become a month-to-month tenant (where the 1-month notice comes into play). But we believe the LL must have actually offered a renewal lease.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:06 pm

Thanks for your reply.

The LL did offer to renew the lease. I guess that if I don't sign a new lease, there's a presumption that I will leave when the lease ends, right?

With COVID-19 and everything going on, how likely is it that the LL will let me rent for a few months after the lease ends and without signing a new lease? Am I right in presuming that fewer people are hunting apartments than in June 2019?
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:27 pm

Was it on the proper RTP-8 form? Was it the latest version (I think that's Sept. 2019), although in some case there are not that many differences. And was it the ETPA version?

If you don't sign and return it, then yes, the presumption is that your tenancy would be over at the end of the lease, however, there are tenants who stay making various claims. If the lease is incorrect as to level of rent, term of the lease or if the LL has added provisions (legally he cannot do that), then that might be a defense that the offer was improper.

As for a few months, some LL might allow it; others will not. But if you do stay, it will take time for the LL to bring a proceeding in court and we don't even know how long the courts will be closed. There will be a pent-up demand for LLs to bring new cases. I would think your actions through carefully.

Technically LLs can't offer RS leases for less than one year. But they can let the situation sleep for a while.

How many are looking for units? Have no clue, although yes, I've heard that less people will be looking due to COVID.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jul 12, 2020 5:30 pm

Thank you so much for your help so far.
So I'm now plunged in my lease renewal offer. It looks like it's on the proper RTP-8 form from Sep 2019.
I have two questions, if I may:

I have 60 days to return the lease that was sent to me by certified mail. The 60-day count starts from the day the certified mail was delivered, right?

There's a section in the renewed lease that says: "If I/we vacate the unit before the lease expiration date, I/we will pay the landlord the difference between the rent and the registered rent from the date of the lease renewal." Is that legal/ customary?
Does that mean that I have to stay until the very last day of the lease in my unit?

Thanks again.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:16 pm

A third question if I may:
I've always paid my rent on time, but I'm having financial difficulties due to the global situation... is it possible to negotiate a lower rent for the lease renewal of a stabilized unit? (I mean lower than the rent I had been paying till now)
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:31 pm

The 60 days usually start when they mail it to you, but don't worry too much. I have NEVER seen a court decide a case on the 60 days. Usually, even tenants who forgot about it and are many months late in returning a lease are generally given leeway. This is not a problem.

You cite a sentence on the renewed lease. Is this on the RTP-8 form? I don't see it on the standard RTP-8. The only place I see the word "vacate" is the last of three checkboxes at the bottom.

The form you should have is https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... 20ETPA.pdf

Has this language been on the original lease and all renewal leases? The LL cannot legally add new terms and conditions that were not on the original lease or previous renewals.

What is the difference between the rent and the registered rent? Do you have a Preferential Rent?

In general a lease requires you to pay the legal rent until the end of the term. Pref Rents were essentially done away with last year. See https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... T%2040.pdf

I don't think that language is customary or legal. But I don't know all the facts or seen the documents, so I can't say with certainty.

If it's of concern, you can move whenever you wish. The only question is what you might owe rent for the remained of the term. There are also provisions for subletting and assignment, and the law also now allows tenants to move requiring the LL to make attempts to mitigate their economic loss ... in other words, it's the LL's burden to show they can't re-rent the place. See https://nysba.org/nys-housing-stability ... must-know/ and scroll down to "RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS NOW HAVE A DUTY TO MITIGATE"

As far as I know, this new provision has not been tested in the courts. But it gives you some leverage.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 12, 2020 6:39 pm

Some say to try to negotiate with the LL, but others say that might be futile. It depends on the LL. They may want a tenant in place with a guaranteed rent even if less than normal. Remember, the LL has to pay his taxes and mortgage, utilities and pay the superintendent.

The problem with RS is that legally lower rents are generally not allowed. See this case: https://casetext.com/case/riverside-syn ... c-v-munroe
But OTOH, preferential rents can become the new legal rent. Would a LL agree to this? I would most certainly consult a tenant lawyer to navigate this one. Remember, we are not lawyers and you should get a legal opinion.

Of course you and the LL could arrive at a handshake deal for a lower rent. But if the LL changes his mind and wants to go back, that opens up a legal thicket.
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jul 12, 2020 7:48 pm

Thank you for your quick and thorough reply. 

The renewal form I have looks like the form in the link you gave me but without the drawing with the figures and the eagle. It reads "RTP-8 ETPA (9/19)" at the bottom left. 

The sentence about paying "the landlord the difference between the reduced rent and the registered rent" is from a different document titled "Temporary Preferential Rent Rider".  This document was NOT in the initial lease (or in any renewal), so I'll make sure I'll talk about it to the landlord. 

Could you please tell me more about preferential rates being done away? I'm a bit panicked because there is a 500$ difference between my preferential rate (which I'm currently paying) and my legal rate. The thing is, the preferential rate is within market prince whereas the legal rate is way above. I might be missing something, but the link you kindly provided doesn't seem to mention that preferential rates have been done away with. 
https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documen ... T%2040.pdf

Thanks!
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby TenantNet » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:11 pm

Please, no need to quote the entire post from me - that's just wasting drive space. (I fixed it).

I would compare the two forms, but in many cases LLs send out forms that are slightly out-of-date. I would only object if the difference is major.

In your previous post, you said "rent" and registered rent, not "reduced rent." Before the law change, the PR rider might mean something. But now PRs are largely eliminated and the reduced rent becomes the legal rent for the duration of the tenancy. What they mean by "temporary" PR rider might have meant something then, but I don't think now.

And yes - look at the DHCR Fact Sheet on Pref Rents. If it wasn't in the original lease, they can't add it now - even if the law had not changed. So if it makes sense, you might with to approach the LL, tell them you wish to renew the lease (that is your intent), but with the PR rider being added, it changes things. In our view, that is an impermissible change of the terms and conditions of the lease.

And you could also remind them how the new law treats PR, so your lower rent should now be the legal rent. Go with the law and DHCR's explanations, not what the LL might try to throw at you with an illegal rider.

I gave you the link to the DHCR Fact Sheet #40 above that talks about PR.

Pursuant to the Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act (HSTPA) of 2019, tenants that were paying a preferential rent as of June 14, 2019, retain the preferential rent for the life of the tenancy. Rent Guidelines Board increases and other increases allowed by the Rent Stabilization Law or Emergency Tenant Protection Act are to be applied to the preferential rent. A tenant who believes that they are entitled to a renewal lease with a preferential rent but is being charged more than that amount may file a rent overcharge or lease violation complaint with DHCR or a court of competent jurisdiction.
(See Examples below.) Please note that certain government regulatory agreement/financed affordable housing programs may not be bound by this limitation; please contact the supervising government agency for more information.


Read it again.

Also see this:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=13888
Part 1
See page 38
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Re: Westchester Rent-Stabilized

Postby Paul_Smith » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:16 pm

Thank you so much!
I really appreciate the time and effort you have taken to answer me.
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