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J-51 upgrades and rent-stabilized leases: What's that all about?

As a New York City renter, how would you feel after duly contemplating the following scenario?

Years ago, your landlord took advantage of a city government benefit known in shorthand form as "J-51," which has long entitled property owners to receive tax exemptions if they undertake certain improvements on buildings they own.

That clear enticement driving many landlords to act was made further attractive by this government offering: Make the requisite upgrade/s and get that tax abatement for an extended period that can last decades.

J-51 understandably comes with a catch that is underscored in equity and fair treatment for renters and spelled out in a recent national media report, namely this: City landlords reaping J-51's attractive abatement "are supposed to give tenants rent-stabilized leases until the benefit expires."

Do you think they are routinely doing so?

You're right -- they're not, with that failure to act lawfully leading to tenant-driven lawsuits. In one recent case reported by the investigative group Pro Publica, a renter making payments on an apartment receiving J-51 benefits was awarded nearly $1 million by a court for his landlord's failure to offer him a rent-stabilized unit.

Here's a problem noted by Pro Publica: City officials are relying upon property owners receiving the J-51 benefit to pass along that information to tenants and offer them rent-stabilized leases. Reportedly, many of them are not doing that.

As the above article notes, "[I]t's up to tenants to find out if they live in a J-51 apartment and are affected by this issue."

Many city renters might be reasonably concerned about J-51 and how hugely it might affect them personally. Questions or concerns regarding eligibility, a landlord's failure to act and/or overcharging or other related matters can be directed to a proven tenant rights attorney who acts solely on behalf of renters in landlord/tenant matters.