The Borough & District Rent Office staff provides information and assistance to tenants and owners of rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments. Tenants may pick up complaint forms for overcharges, service reductions and other violations, and owners may receive applications for major capital improvement (MCI) and hardship increases. Informative Fact Sheets, Operational Bulletins, Policy Statements, and Advisory Opinions on numerous rent regulatory topics are also available. All of these are free of charge.
They provide these services:
The Rent Guidelines Boards (one in New York City and one each in Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland counties) set maximum allowable rates for rent increases in rent stabilized apartments. These guideline rates are set once a year and are effective for renewal leases beginning on or after October 1st of each year. Owners who execute vacancy leases with new tenants are entitled to collect a statutory vacancy increase that cannot exceed 20% for a two year lease. The Rent Code Amendments of 2014 require owners to provide vacancy lease tenants with an expanded NYC Lease Rider or an ETPA Standard Lease Addenda which shows in greater detail how the new rent was calculated, including details about rent increases based on Individual Apartment Improvements. These vacancy increases and reporting requirements are described in DHCR Fact Sheet #2, Fact Sheet #5, Fact Sheet #26 and Fact Sheet #31.Both in New York City and the ETPA counties, rents can be increased during the lease period in any one of three ways, so long as the lease provides for the collection of an increase during the lease term: (1) with the written consent of the tenant in occupancy, if the owner makes an individual apartment improvement (IAI) (2) with DHCR approval, if the owner installs a building-wide major capital improvement (MCI); or (3) in cases of hardship with DHCR approval.
For rent stabilized apartments, owners may be ordered to refund excess rent based on a finding of rent overcharge. A finding by DHCR of a willful rent overcharge by the owner may result in the assessment of treble damages payable to the tenant. In general, there is a retroactive four-year maximum on rent overcharge refunds, for complaints filed on or after April 1, 1984, and a two-year maximum on treble damages. The treble damage penalty was extended to New York City by the 1983 Omnibus Housing Act; it applies only to willful overcharges collected or for complaints filed on or after April 1, 1984. Outside New York City, ETPA provides for treble damages for willful or negligent overcharges. The Rent Code Amendments of 2014 do provide specific instances, including preferential rent situations, where the rental history going back more than four years may be examined to determine the legal rent.
Rents may be reduced if the owner fails to provide required or essential services, or fails to make necessary repairs for an individual apartment or building-wide. Examples of such conditions are lack of heat/hot water, unsanitary common areas (halls, lobby), and broken door locks. If a tenant receives a rent reduction from DHCR, and also receives another rent abatement or rent credit because of the same conditions, the tenant cannot get both benefits at the same time. The Rent Code Amendments of 2014 stipulate additional limitations on the collection of rent increases when a rent reduction is in effect.Rent Reduction Application for Lack of Heat/Hot Water
The law prohibits harassment of rent regulated tenants. Owners found guilty of intentional actions to force a tenant to vacate an apartment can be denied decontrol and lawful rent increases and may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Owners found guilty of tenant harassment for acts committed on or after July 19, 1997, are subject to fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. The Rent Code Amendments of 2014 expanded such course of conduct to include the filing of false documents with or making false statements to DHCR.
Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE)
Tenants who are disabled may also qualify for full exemption or partial exemption from rent increases. This applies to tenants in rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments or hotels in New York City, and to tenants in apartments regulated by rent control or ETPA in the municipalities outside of New York City that may authorize the exemption program. Tenants are considered disabled, and therefore eligible if they are a recipient (or former recipient, as described below) of benefits from any of the following programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under the Federal Social Security Act;Disability Pension or Disability Compensation benefits as provided by the United State Department of Veteran Affairs; or Medical Assistance benefits pursuant to NY State Social Service Law, and a former recipient of SSDI or SSI benefits.
To apply for DRIE, the tenant of a NYC rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment should write to the New York City Department of Finance, DRIE Exemptions, 19th Floor, 59 Maiden Lane, New York, New York 10038 or call the Citizen Service Center at 311.The exemption program is administered by DHCR outside New York City. In Westchester county, DRIE has been adopted in the villages of Dobbs Ferry and Hastings on Hudson; the town of Greenburgh; and the cities of New Rochelle and Yonkers. Contact (914) 948-4434 to obtain an application form. Currently, no locality in Nassau county has adopted DRIE.
Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE)
Tenants who are 62 years or older may qualify for full exemption or partial exemption from rent increases. This applies to tenants in rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments or hotels in New York City, and to tenants in apartments regulated by rent control or ETPA in the municipalities outside of New York City that have authorized the exemption program. Senior citizens are eligible if: their incomes are (a) below a maximum limit set by local law; (b) they are paying at least one-third of their income for rent, and (c) for tenants in rent stabilized apartments, the tenant must have a valid one- or two-year lease.The exemption program is administered by DHCR outside New York City. Outside NYC, please call (914) 948-4434 for more information. In New York City, it is administered by the New York City Department of Finance, 59 Maiden Lane, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10038. Tenants can also contact the Citizen Service Center at 311.