Landlord v. Tenant: February 2018
RENT STABILIZATION COVERAGE
Court Applies Law Retroactively to Find Apartment Was Improperly Deregulated
Landlord sued to evict unregulated tenant after tenant's lease expired. Tenant claimed that he was rent stabilized and had been overcharged. The court ruled for tenant. Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) Section 26-511(c)(14), as amended effective June 15, 2015, requires that the rent prior to a vacancy exceed $2,500 in order for the next tenant to be deregulated. Tenant moved into the apartment before the law changed, on May 1, 2015, at a monthly rent of $1,650, and the prior tenant's last rent-stabilized rent was $2,138 with a preferential rent of $1,500. Landlord claimed that the applicable vacancy increase of 18.25 percent raised tenant's legal rent to over $2,500, and therefore tenant was properly deregulated. But the court found that the legislature intended to retroactively apply the amendment to the RSL to apartments that became vacant before the effective date of the statute. So tenant remained rent stabilized since prior tenant's legal rent was less than $2,500.
- 517 West 212 St LLC v. Musik-Ayala: 2017 NY Slip Op 2l7398, 2017 WL 6030451 (Civ. Ct. NY; 12/1/17)
DHCR Finds Rent Overcharge Despite Contrary TPU Ruling
The DHCR's Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) initiated a rent overcharge complaint with the DHCR's Office of Rent Administration (ORA). The DRA ruled for tenant and ordered landlord to refund $85,000, including triple damages and interest. Landlord appealed and lost. Landlord pointed out that the TPU found no rent overcharge because landlord charged tenant a preferential rent that was less than the reduced legal regulated rent determined by the TPU. And landlord had complied with the TPU's other directives to reduce the legal regulated rent and amend the 2013 annual rent registration. The DHCR noted that, although the TPU started the rent overcharge case, the ORA's proceeding was separate from the TPU's case. Landlord had failed, despite several DRA requests, to submit copies of a base date lease and/or ledger. So the DRA properly processed the case and made its decision.
- Central Astoria LLC: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. EW110079RO (11/17/17)
Substantial Rent Increase Didn't Prove Fraud by Landlord
Rent-stabilized tenant complained of rent overcharge. The DRA ruled against tenant, finding no overcharge. Tenant appealed and won, in part. Tenant claimed landlord fraud because the apartment rent increased from $313 in 2007 to $2,100 in 2011. And tenant claimed that the apartment rent should have been frozen under a 2003 building-wide rent reduction order. The DHCR noted that the rent reduction order didn't include tenant's apartment, so no rent freeze applied. And tenant didn't raise a fraud claim before the DRA. Even if she did, one rent increase from $313 to $2,100 wasn't sufficient proof of a fraudulent scheme by landlord. Landlord's settlement of rent overcharge claims with other tenants also didn't show fraud. And landlord had registered tenant's apartment as rent stabilized since the base rent date. However, the DRA mistakenly allowed a rent increase for a renewal term when tenant and landlord didn't sign the renewal lease. So landlord must refund $1,348, including interest, representing a $42 per month rent increase for the renewal period starting Feb. 1, 2014.
- Garcia: DHCR Adm. Rev. Docket No. FO410061RT (11/15/17)