I Think My Landlord Is Overcharging Me: What Do I Do?

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 06/23/2020

It is an unfortunately common occurrence to live in an apartment that is run by a neglectful landlord company. You need to know your rights to avoid being taken advantage of by them or your building manager. If you think your landlord is overcharging you, you may have a few different options for recourse. If you’re a NYCHA tenant, you can find more information about how to calculate your rent in NYCHA here.

About Rent Regulation And The Rent Guidelines Board

There are many types of housing in New York City, but apartments that are rent regulated have specific guidelines about how much rent can be charged. There are two types of apartments that fall under regulation, which are rent controlled and rent stabilized. 

If you live in a rent controlled apartment, that means that your building was built before February 1, 1947 and you have lived in your apartment since July 1, 1971, or that you took over the apartment lease from a family member who did. The Maximum Base Rent (MBR) system was the way that landlords could apply to increase the rent for rent controlled tenants, but now, rent increases are based on the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) decisions. Landlords have to apply for the increase, which is an average of the last five increases for one year leases, or 7.5%, whichever is less.

Rent stabilized apartments are much more common than rent controlled ones. These apartments can be found in buildings that are privately owned, have six or more apartments, and were built and occupied before 1974. However, some buildings which were built after 1974 are categorized as rent stabilized due to tax exemptions that the landlord may have applied for. More exceptions like this are listed in the RGB Building List resource. Rent increases for rent stabilized tenants are based on the RGB as well, when the nine members of the board vote each June on the percent that landlords can raise the rent for one year and two year leases.

You may also want to read up on preferential rent. You may have been charged rent that is lower than the legally outlined rate, and the landlord may be trying to get the rent back up to the highest possible legal limit. You still have rights in this scenario too.

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Requesting Your Rent History

Before you move into an apartment, it’s important to understand what type of rights you have based on the housing type. If you want to check if your apartment is rent controlled, contact the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) by calling 718-739-6400 or emailing rentinfo@nyshcr.org, submitting your question via their online form, or visiting an HCR  Rent Administration Office in your borough

If you’re in a building that is listed as rent stabilized, that doesn’t mean that every apartment within the building is also rent stabilized. However, you can easily find out if your individual apartment is rent stabilized by requesting your apartment’s rent history by using JustFix.nyc’s free rent history online form, or our textbot by texting “rent history” to (646) 783-0627. You’ll be asked to enter in your street address and apartment number, and then you’ll be mailed your rent history in about a week, if the HCR has your apartment registered as rent stabilized. If you don’t receive your rent history, just send an email to support@justfix.nyc and we’ll send you any emails from the HCR that we’ve received about your apartment’s status.

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Want to take action?

Get your apartment's Rent History

Your Rent History can help you find out if your apartment is rent stabilized and if you are being overcharged on rent.

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What To Do If You Think You’re Being Overcharged

Once you receive your rent history, take a close look at the rent that has been charged in the years before you lived there, so that you can look out for any dramatic changes. If something looks off, there’s a chance your landlord may be overcharging you for rent. Sometimes, landlords claim to have made renovations in apartments, called Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs) in order to charge more rent and deregulate the unit. There may also have been a Major Capital Improvement (MCI), so if you’re in a rent stabilized unit, you can use the HCR’s MCI payment estimator to see how that will affect your monthly rent.

However, the recent passage of the Statewide Housing Security and Protection Act of 2019 should protect you from possible illegal rent spikes. There are only three ways that rent can be increased for both rent controlled and rent stabilized units, so see if you can figure out if that’s what’s happening in your situation. You can also check out this resource from the Met Council on Housing for more information.

If you think you’re being overcharged on rent, suspect there have been illegal fees added, or have been charged more than the legal cost on your security deposit, you can take a couple simple online actions.

  • First, file a complaint online to the HCR. You can use this form to make a complaint about the overcharges as long as you experienced them within six years from the date the overcharges happened.

  • Second, you can also apply to get your rent reduced due to “decreased services” in your apartment, such as a lack of hot water, a vacate order issued, and even non-emergency issues. If the issues are not just in your apartment but occurring throughout the entire building, you can also apply to get your rent reduced due to these building-wide issues as well.

If you need support printing and filling out the application, you may want to contact the constituent services staff of the elected officials who represent you. Just type in your address in this lookup tool to find your representatives’ contact information, or call 311. You can also request that HCR mail it to you by calling 718-639-7400. As you’re considering your options, you may want to consider consulting an attorney first. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now legal service providers available to give you free advice, even if they can’t represent you. Get in touch with them by calling the City’s Tenant Helpline by dialing 311, or email civiljustice@hra.nyc.gov at any time.

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