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The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) is one of five offices of New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The Division is responsible for supervising, maintaining, and developing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Its offices further this mission in various ways—for example, the Fair and Equitable Housing Office promotes education and initiatives to eliminate discrimination in New York housing, and the Office of Housing Operations oversees the federal and state’s Section 8 housing assistance program and state-assisted housing developments.

The Office of Rent Administration administers rent regulations (rent control and rent stabilization) for privately owned buildings. In response to 2011 legislation expanding rent regulations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Tenant Protection Unit as a law-enforcement office of the Division of Homes and Community Renewal. The Tenant Protection Unit is responsible for enforcing rent regulation laws against landlords. With new funding and new legal mandates, it has never been more important for landlords to be aware of—and strictly comply with—all provisions of rent regulations.

Ezratty, Ezratty and Levine has represented New York landlords in disputes with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal since 1992. Trust our firm’s decades of experience in all matters of rent stabilization. We will help you identify and proactively manage potential rent regulation problems. We also offer aggressive representation in litigation and negotiation with DHCR. Our attorneys will fight for you to resolve DHCR disputes as quickly and easily as possible.

Registration of Rent-Stabilized Units

An owner of any rent-stabilized apartment units is required to register the rents of such units with DHCR on an annual basis. Owners who do not file annual statements are not eligible for rent increases and are subject to other civil penalties. In addition, all stabilized buildings have to be registered yearly. Failure to do so will result in penalties imposed on the owner.

Discrimination Complaints

The federal Fair Housing Act—officially known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—prohibits housing discrimination on a national level. It forbids landlords from discrimination against housing applicants and tenants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Discrimination can include refusal to rent or sell property, refusal to negotiate for housing, making a property unavailable, setting different terms or conditions of leases, or falsely denying that a property is available for rent.

In the State of New York, these regulations are promoted by the Fair and Equitable Housing Office (FEHO) of the DHCR. FEHO promotes statewide education, initiatives, and research to affirmatively further fair housing within the State. Housing discrimination complaints are made to the State Division of Human Rights or Civil Rights Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General.

Housing discrimination is a serious allegation for any landlord. It can subject a landlord to penalties under both state and federal law. Even the mere allegation of discrimination carries a heavy stigma that can impair a landlord’s reputation and ability to lease within the community. This is why it is so important for landlords facing allegations of housing discrimination to respond to—and vigorously defend themselves against—such claims.

Rent Rate Complaints

Tenants in New York can file rent complaints with DHCR. If DHCR finds the complaint valid, it will issue a written order reducing the rent payment and directing the owner to refund the overcharged amount to the tenant. Either DHCR or an appropriate court can also determine that a rental amount needs to be held at the current level until further action by the landlord.

To prevent such orders from DHCR, the landlord must respond to investigators and prove that the rent is within the current parameters of the Rent Guidelines Board. A landlord who fails to do this will incur significant expenses and inconvenience, and may miss opportunities to increase profits and future rental sums from leased properties.

Service Complaints

Tenants can also file complaints for a landlord’s failure to provide required or essential services, or failing to make necessary repairs. If the Decrease in Service Complaint is validated by DHCR, it will order a rent reduction to take effect until DHCR finds the services have been restored (or the necessary repairs have been completed). Landlords should take proactive steps to avoid these issues by looking for violations in their buildings on a regular basis. Again, landlords can prevent this by cooperating with DHCR investigators and immediately complying with any service orders. Compliance now will save landlords from indefinite rent reductions in the future.

Rent Renewal Complaints

Tenants of rent-stabilized apartments have a general right to renew their leases for one- or two-year terms. This is at the tenant’s option, and the right can be exercised by an original tenant’s lawful successor (succession rights). If a landlord fails to renew the lease of a rent-stabilized apartment in a timely or proper manner, the tenant can file a complaint with DHCR. At best, this results in an inconvenient investigation in which the landlord proves that he or she had legal grounds for not renewing the lease. At worst, this can result in a costly housing court action in which the tenant obtains a judgment and returns to the property under an indefinite lease. In addition, landlords can face significant fines for failing to renew a lease.

In some cases, a landlord may choose to not renew a rent-stabilized lease. To do so, however, he or she must provide the current tenant with a “Golub Notice” between 150 and 90 days before the lease expires. This notice must specify why the landlord will not renew the lease. Typically, Golub Notices are used when the landlord discovers that a unit is not the tenant’s primary residence, but can also be used when the landlord would like to use the unit for his or her immediate family’s personal use. In cases involving non-primary residence issues, landlords should typically gather evidence in support of their assertion that a tenant is living elsewhere long before a Golub Notice is served.

Compliance and Resolution Made Simple

New York housing law can be complicated, and compliance with highly regulated rent-stabilization laws can be particularly difficult and costly. By knowing rent-stabilization laws, preparing compliance strategies, clearly documenting compliance, and effectively communicating with both tenants and DHCR, landlords can avoid the inconvenience of DHCR investigations.

If you are a landlord who does find yourself in any sort of dispute with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, let a professional resolve it quickly, ably, and with the least amount of disruption to the profitable occupancy of your properties. Schedule a consultation today to learn how our expertise can work to the benefit of both you and your rental properties. The experienced landlord tenant law firm of Ezratty, Ezratty and Levine can use our expertise to benefit both you and your rental properties. Schedule a consultation today by contacting us online or by calling our office at (516) 747-5566.