Many have speculated that there has been a recent uptick in the ‘gentrification’ of our neighborhood that adds to landlords’ efforts to get rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants out of their apartments in order to raise the rent and ultimately decontrol or destabilize.
Here are some tips to help make sure that if you are in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment, you don’t open yourself up to potential vulnerability of increased rents or eviction efforts from all-too-eager landlords:
1.) Ensure your apartment is properly registered with the Department of Homes and Community Renewal (“DHCR”) at the correct rent. Your landlord is required to register your apartment with DHCR and you can obtain a copy of your rent registration by calling DHCR at (719) 739-6400. If your landlord has either failed to register the building, or has registered it at a higher rent than the law allows, you can file a complaint with DHCR, who will investigate your complaint and call on your landlord to establish the validity of the regulated rent. In most cases you can only contest increases within the last four years.
2.) Review any proposed increases. Your landlord is only permitted to pass the costs of certain improvements on to tenants. These improvements do not include the cost of ordinary repairs. Further, the landlord must register these improvements with DHCR, and you are entitled to an opportunity to comment on them. DHCR will issue an order either approving the increase, some of the increase, or denying it altogether. If your landlord attempts to tack on additional fees to your monthly rent, ensure these are allowed by law and approved by DHCR.
3.) Form a tenants’ association. As in most cases, there’s strength in numbers. If you feel your landlord is acting aggressively or inappropriately, you and your fellow tenants can band together and pool your complaints and resources. This is particularly true in cases where the landlord is neglecting the building or failing to make repairs.
4.) Contact an attorney. A legal professional can advise you of your rights and represent your and your fellow tenants’ interests against the landlord, who most likely has attorneys of his own.
5.) Contact 311. If your landlord is failing to make necessary repairs or failing to maintain required services, you can file a complaint with 311, who will very often send someone out to inspect the apartment. Registering your complaint with 311 will help create a paper trail which will come in handy if you ever find yourself in court.
6.) Correspond with your landlord in writing. All correspondence with your landlord should be in writing and should be sent with proof of mailing. Make sure to make a copy of everything you send, along with the proof of mailing, just in case you have to refer to it later.
7.) Review your lease. Knowing the terms of your lease is essential, and you should have a copy on hand at all times. A lease can include important terms, such as how your landlord is required to send you certain notices, and knowledge of these terms can be essential in protecting yourself.
Yetta Kurland is a community activist and the founding partner of the Kurland Group, a full service boutique civil rights law firm. http://www.kurlandgroup.com .