Friday, March 06, 2009

The Landlord Strikes Again

If you are a renter in New York with a rent stabilized lease, at this point, you must know your rights because it is likely that have been through at least one or two run ins with your landlord trying to find a way to get you out of your apartment. If you don't know your rights, then you probably have been forced out of your apartment through illegal means, but you figured it was easier to leave than fight. Many people have taken this stand over the past 20 years, and so the few that are left have had to really get to know what can and can't be done, or else move out of the city, or to the South Bronx.

First, let me explain, for those who don't know, how it works. Every year the rent guidelines board sets the percentage of how much a landlord can raise the rent. In 2009 it was the largest increase allowed in 20 years. This year they can raise the rent 4.5% for a one year lease and 8.5% for a two year lease (or a $45 or $85 increase, whichever is greater). But they still must offer you both a one year and two year option.

Well, here is what they are doing: we signed a lease last year for two years, which means that it doesn't expire until April 2010. However, we just got a renewal lease in the mail for a lease that starts May 2009 with a cover letter saying that our lease is up, and they will offer us a one year extension. There are instructions in the letter that we should fill in "one year" in the appropriate box.

The lease itself is filled out properly, and the two year option is there. However they did not include the legal riders that would explain the rights of a stabilized renter, among other things.

What they are hoping for is:

1. We are too disorganized to know when our lease is up so we will sign the new lease and pay the increased rent starting a year early.

2. We are too stupid to know our rights and will take their word that we can only get a one year lease.

3. If they accomplish #1 and #2, then our rent will have gone up exponentially because all future increases will be based on the new rent, calculated a year early and at a relatively high percentage that they may never see again.

I just hope they go bankrupt before the next thing happens, because I think at this point instead of just being greedy they may also be desperate, which can't be good for tenants.

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