Ask Sam: I found out my apartment is supposed to have a dishwasher. Can I get reimbursed for rent overcharges?
Dear Sam: I live in an affordable unit in a building that receives a 421a tax break. My rental history states that I have a dishwasher in my unit, which I do not. Could I potentially use this to get management to install a dishwasher? And does this mean I've potentially been overcharged in rent, and could take the landlord to court for six years of overcharges?
While you may be able to get your landlord to install a new dishwasher (or at least get your rent reduced until they do), don't expect to collect back rent for the years you've spent doing dishes by hand, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
For starters, the statute of limitations for a rent overcharge claim is capped at four years, says Himmelstein's colleague Ron Languedoc, and you're looking at a six-year claim. Secondly, he says, "This is not a classic rent overcharge case," and tenants aren't typically awarded money based on the landlord's failure to provide a service that's listed on the registration forms.
However, he says, you can file a reduction in services complaint with the DHCR (you can find those forms here), and if succsesful, the DHCR will issue a rent reduction order effective from the time you first filed the complaint—not retroactively, for all the time you've been living without a dishwasher.
On the bright side, though, if you win a rent reduction, it will be effective indefinitely, until your landlord ponies up and installs a dishwasher.
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.
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