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Website provides NYC rent info, but check with attorney

Talk about broad-based relevance to a targeted audience in a graduate thesis project.

Chris Henrick, an Internet-based designer and developer, cast about for research ideas for his masters' paper, and came up with this: a pro-consumer website geared toward providing users with instantly relevant and accurate data regarding the status of their rental units in New York City.

His website (amirentstabilized.com) provides a sweeping range of information germane to city dwellers, perhaps most centrally this: data on rent stabilization.

What likely drives most readers to Henrick's site is what is directly implied in his website URL and the question it poses, namely, an instant answer as to whether a given unit is -- or is not -- a rent-stabilized dwelling.

And that is of course a distinctly important focus, given the sheer difference between affordability and, well, what some NYC landlords seek to charge when no rent limitation is imposed.

Like so many things in life, and as noted in a media article discussing the site, the information that quickly appears in response to a few keystroke clicks comes with a caveat.

And that is this: Because city landlords self-report relevant data, one can never be 100 percent positive that what pops up is a slam-dunk certainty. The site recommends "getting in touch with a housing attorney" to follow up.

City dwellers harboring uncertainties know just how important that can be, given the ambiguity that attaches to unit status in legions of cases.

One reason it can be critically important for a renter to know that his or her unit is rent stabilized in the event that it isn't denoted as such and monthly checks have been pegged to market rates is that a proper determination can sometimes result in a hefty reimbursement of back rent that was overpaid.

Again, a proven tenants' rights attorney can answer questions and provide diligent representation in any housing-related matter implicating the rights and interests of a New York City renter.