Other Housing Issues

Rent Increases in Rent Regulated Apartments

Owners of rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments are required to register rents every year on-line between April 1 and July 31 using HCR’s automated system. Owners must also file for increases based on either individual apartments or building-wide improvements. Tenants can contact HCR regarding rent increases due to Rent Guidelines Board approvals, Individual Apartment Improvements (IAI) or Major Capital Improvements (MCI). Tenants can also seek legal counsel for help determining if rent increases are legal. For more information on any of these issues, call HCR at (718) 739-6400 or visit HCR.

Lease Renewals in Rent Stabilized Apartments

Generally, tenants in rent stabilized units must be offered renewal leases in a form approved by HCR for a term of one or two years, at the tenant’s choice, and at a rate set by the Rent Guidelines Board. The owner must give written notice of renewal on a DHCR Renewal Lease form (RLF) by mail or personal delivery not more than 150 days, and not less than 90 days, before the existing lease expires. After the renewal offer is made, the tenant has 60 days to choose a lease term, sign the lease, and return it to the owner. If the tenant does not accept the renewal lease offer within a 60-day period, the owner may refuse to renew the lease and may also proceed in court to evict the tenant after the expiration of the current lease. When a tenant signs the RLF and returns it to the owner, the owner must return the fully signed and dated copy to the tenant within 30 days. A renewal should go into effect on or after the date that it is signed and returned to the tenant, but no earlier than the expiration date of the current lease. In general, the lease and any rent increase may not be retroactive.

Preferential Rents in Rent Stabilized Apartments

If you have a preferential rent on your rent stabilized apartment, it means the landlord is charging you less than what they are legally allowed to charge under law. 

Read your lease and any riders carefully before signing. Your lease must include language that states you are being charged a preferential rent. A preferential rent may be described as a lower rent, a temporary rent, etc. Look to see if a higher "legal rent" is written in the lease, in addition to the preferential rent. If in doubt, always ask before signing your lease. The landlord may terminate the preferential rent upon renewal of your lease and charge the higher legal rent and any lawful increases. If a higher legal rent is not stated in the lease, then the preferential rent is the only rent on which future increases are allowed to be calculated. 

At the end of the lease, the owner can terminate the preferential rent unless the lease includes a clause that it is for the entire life of your tenancy. If a lease is silent on the issue the owner can still terminate the preferential rent at the end of the lease. Remember, the higher legal rent must be specified in the lease. Preferential rents cannot be terminated during a lease term for any reason.  

Contact DHCR at orarecords@nyschr.org to obtain a rent history of your apartment. This will give you the information on the history of rent charged for that apartment and the legal rent allowed. Talk to your landlord or building owner if you believe that the registered legal rent or the rent you are being charged is too high. You may also file a Tenant's Complaint of Rent and/or Other Specific Overcharges (DCHR Form RA-89). Visit HRC for more information. 

Certificate of Occupancy and Rent Payments

Tenants may have a defense to a claim for rent in a building which has been illegally altered and/or for which there is no current Certificate of Occupancy indicating that the rented space can be legally occupied. Each tenant has a specific set of circumstances and tenants should always seek legal counsel to ensure that their rights are protected instead of just deciding not to pay rent.

Building Safety

Tenants should notify their building owners and the police of any illegal activity in their building. Owners should alert the police to illegal activity in their building. To secure buildings from drug dealers and vandals, the building manager, superintendent or owner should immediately repair broken locks or intercoms.

Discrimination

Under local, state and federal law, property owners and their representatives (be they employees of the ownership entity, real estate brokerage firms, management firms, or agents etc.), may not deny housing to prospective tenants on the basis of race, color, religion/creed, national origin, gender (including sexual harassment), gender identity, age, marital or partnership status, disability, alienage or citizenship status, legal occupation, or lawful source of income. Furthermore, tenants may not be denied housing because they have children. Fair Housing NYC—a joint effort by HPD and the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CHR)—provides information on the protected classes under the City Human Rights Law, who can be held liable for housing discrimination, how to file a housing discrimination complaint, affordable housing opportunities, the difference between fair housing rights and tenants rights, and going to housing court. The Fair Housing NYC website also provides resource information, multi-lingual downloadable materials, and notice of upcoming fair housing events open to the public. Tenants who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file complaints within one year of the incident by calling 311 and being directed to the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

If you have been trying to buy or rent a home or apartment and you believe your civil rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), located at 22 Reade Street, New York, NY 10007, in lower Manhattan. Commission services are free of charge. Your housing discrimination complaint will be reviewed by a fair housing specialist to determine if it alleges acts that might violate the Fair Housing Act. If your complaint involves a possible violation of the Act, the specialist will assist you in filing an official housing discrimination complaint. The NYC Human Rights Law requires that the complaint be filed within one year of the last alleged act of discrimination. To schedule an appointment, please call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK or 212-306-7450).

Foreclosure

The Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) provides referrals to legal services, housing counseling, and consumer education to New York City residents in danger of foreclosure. For more information visit CNYCN, or call 311 or (646) 786-0888.

Tenant Associations

Real Property Law Sec. 230 protects tenants who want to organize a tenant association for the purposes of protecting their rights to repairs, services, etc. Tenants may form, join, and participate in tenant organizations to protect their rights. Landlords must permit tenant organizations to meet, at no cost, in any community or social room in the building, even if the use of the room is normally subject to a fee. Tenant organization meetings are required to be held at reasonable times and in a peaceful manner which does not obstruct access to the premises. Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights.

For information about TIL Program visit the Tenant Associations page.

Pets

Unless the pet can be considered a “service animal” used by blind, deaf or disabled people, whether pets are permitted is at the discretion of the building owner and is usually stipulated in the lease. If a tenant keeps a pet in the apart-ment without the building owner’s permission, it may be considered a serious violation of the lease and may be a basis for terminating tenancy. In addition, many animals cannot be kept legally as pets in the City of New York. For more information on pet regulations, call 311 to reach the DOHMH.