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New York State’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) just scored a major coup for the residents of 50,000 units across the city, according to NY1: An investigation revealed that the monthly rent on their apartments had been incorrectly deregulated, and will now return to its formerly stabilized rate.
Landlords of thousands of buildings across all five boroughs were found to have violated state regulations on rent, overcharging tenants who are entitled to over $2 million in repayments.
The TPU was created in 2011 and acts as a kind of watchdog, monitoring landlord misconduct. One of TPU’s projects, the Rent Registration Initiative, tracks when apartments previously registered as stabilized disappear from the New York Homes and Community Renewal’s registry of regulated units. While this process helps to protect renters, it isn’t just about looking out for the little guy—as the TPU’s website notes, restoring units to the registry saves the state billions by minimizing the need to build new affordable housing.
This isn’t the first time that TPU has re-stabilized NYC apartments—back in January, the agency restored an additional 50,000 units to regulated status, reports DNAInfo.
Given that so many landlords seem to be skirting the law, renters would do well to arm themselves with information about how rent regulation works in New York. The city includes over 1 million rent-stabilized units, which are generally in buildings that were constructed between 1947 and 1974, and include six or more apartments.
Recently renovated buildings, too, might be stabilized if they receive a J-51 tax abatement, which was created to encourage property owners to make updates. (You can check if your building is stabilized by using this search engine; a list of J-51 abatement properties can be found here.)
Landlords might illegally de-stabilize an apartment in a few ways. When a tenant whose rent has surpassed $2,500 per month moves out, the apartment is no longer protected under regulations, which is why it’s so important to check a unit’s rental history if you suspect it should be stabilized and isn’t. Contact the HCR to find out what your predecessors paid, and file a complaint if you think your landlord is guilty of an illegal rent hike. A close look at your unit’s rental history may help you to uncover any unfair increases over the years—and if you’ve lived in the apartment for a while, perhaps even entitle you to a payback like the one thousands of New York renters just received.