With increasing public awareness—and help from handy sites like AmIRentStabilized.com—more and more NYC renters are realizing that their apartments are, indeed, rent stabilized, and they've been paying illegally high rents. But once you realize your landlord's been gouging you, what can you actually do about it?
To help renters get answers, ProPublica and the Brooklyn Public Library are co-hosting an event this week called "How to Fight Back if Your Rent is Illegally High," featuring expert advice as well as success stories from NYC tenants—including one Upper West Sider who successfully sued his landlord for $818,000 after years of overcharges (you can read more about that particular story here).
The event is an outgrowth of ProPublica's ongoing series of articles entitled The Rent Racket, tracking NYC landlords who fail to comply with rent regulation laws and inform tenants of their apartments' status, oftentimes in spite of receiving tax breaks specifically associated with rent stabilization. "The stories were first prompted by a whistleblower at HPD who alerted us to the issue that there are a lot of rentals collecting tax benefits, and yet they are not providing rent-stabilized housing," ProPublica reporter Cezary Podkul tells us.
"So the first thing I would tell tenants is to do the research and be aware of any tax breaks attached to their properties," he adds. "For instance, I was having drinks with a friend last week who was about to sign a new lease, then we put his address into the city portal, and found out that it had a J-51 tax abatement, and so was rent-stabilized." (We've got tips on researching your building's J-51 status here.)
"Outside of tax-advantaged properties, there are a lot of buildings that are rent-stabilized because of their age," says Podkul, citing the rule that buildings built before 1974 with six or more units are generally rent stabilized. In these cases, you have to do more complicated digging into your apartment's rent history (more tips on that here), and at this event, ProPublica will have an expert onhand from the Housing Rights Initiative to help explain the process.
The event takes place this Thursday, October 20th, at 7:30 pm at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at 10 Grand Army Plaza. If you've been wanting to dig into your apartment's past or fight back against your landlord, now's your chance to come up with a game plan.
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