In 2019, the New York state legislature passed new laws that should have made it easier for tenants to collect rent overcharges.
The law allows tenants who believe their landlords illegally de-stabilized their apartment to seek reimbursement for overcharges. This was good news for tenants who went through the legwork to determine if their landlord is collecting overcharges, but these same tenants are now facing another hurdle in getting their money: massive delays.
Three years for a response
According to reports like this one from The City, there was an enormous response to the change in legislation that extended the number of times tenants had to file overcharging complaints. The Division of Housing and Community Renewal received far more cases than it could manage, and that backlog continues to grow.
Currently, tenants can wait a whopping three years before the DHCR resolves their case. It reportedly takes up to two years just to get the case assigned to one of just 25 rent examiners.
Playing the waiting game
Waiting this long for a resolution can be difficult for many reasons. First, it can mean extending the amount of time a person goes without money that is rightfully theirs. Second, it can give landlords more time to try and persuade a tenant to settle for less than they may deserve. Further, it adds to the frustration of an already difficult situation.
As such, many people decide to ultimately withdraw their case or settle with the landlord.
While these may be viable solutions for some people, hundreds of others have their cases accepted.
Helping your case along
If you believe your landlord has overcharged you, the length of the adjudication process may seem daunting. However, you have rights as a tenant, which are worth protecting. You can help to minimize preventable delays by bolstering your complaint with the necessary information and available evidence of overcharging. You also have the option of filing your overcharge complaint in court or raising it as a “counterclaim” after a landlord sues you for rent. There are benefits to a court-filed overcharge complaint or counterclaim.
If you do decide to supplement your DHCR overcharge complaint and/or settle before the DHCR determines your case, you can work with an attorney to negotiate a fair outcome.