Rent laws in New York City change all the time, and it can be extraordinarily difficult for renters to keep track of what these changes are or what impact they could have. This is especially true for tenants who move around a lot and people who are new to living in NYC. Landlords, however, are often more informed.
Unfortunately, some landlords try to take advantage of this disparity. For instance, major landlords in Lower Manhattan have come under fire for overcharging their tenants.
Tax breaks but no breaks on rent
Tenants argue that landlords in the area received tax breaks starting in 1995 for converting downtown office spaces into residential apartments. However, multiple landlords failed to comply with the conditions of the tax break, which included giving tenants rent-stabilized leases.
As a result, thousands of tenants were overcharged rent for years. HMGJ won a historic case before the New York State Court of Appeals earlier this year forcing landlords to give such tenants rent stabilized leases and making it possible for tenants to obtain refunds.
Landlords take the case to the Supreme Court
One landlord not only wants to avoid complying with the conditions of the tax break, he wants the U.S. Supreme Court to side with him and his argument that the rent requirements are unconstitutional.
According to reports, the landlord says that regulating rent equates to taking private property for public use without fair compensation. This, he argues, violates the Fifth Amendment protecting against such actions.
However, the chances that the Supreme Court will hear the case are slim – it agrees to hear only a small fraction of the petitions presented to them every term. And precedent supports the constitutionality of rent regulation.
We will continue to follow any developments in the cases brought on behalf of the tenants in New York City.
Seeking justice through lawsuits
It is unfortunate that tenants must pursue legal action when landlords violate their rights. However, filing lawsuits can accomplish multiple objectives.
It allows tenants to recover money they have already overpaid and get new leases that prevent future overcharges. Lawsuits can also highlight widespread issues and violations, which can trigger damages for tenants and possibly legislative changes, as well. Further, they can put a stop to illegal practices and repeat offenders that affect previous, current and future tenants across NYC.
HMGJ won a historic case before the New York State Court of Appeals earlier this year forcing landlords to give such tenants rent stabilized leases and making it possible for tenants to obtain refunds.