Unless you're a real estate lawyer, odds are you haven't taken the time to memorize the statutes and dense language swelling around apartment rental laws.

Newsflash, New York City: If it seems like your landlord is charging you too much, your exorbitant rent might be higher than the law allows, and they might be getting big property tax breaks on top of that.

Does the idea that you might be getting scammed by your landlord make you sick to your stomach?

Yeah, us too. Especially since they've just guzzled all our money out of our bank accounts after our latest rent payment.

So stick with us here, and we'll explain the logistics of how they might be swindling you.

One of the ways they knock around their residents is by manipulating "legal" and "preferential" rents. The DHCR oversees rent stabilization and doesn't verify the accuracy or legality of "legal" rents that landlords register, but here it is.

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The "legal" rent listed in your lease is how much your landlord can legally charge you. They might charge you less than the "legal" rent. They might charge you a "preferential" rent. Leases often list both legal and preferential rents.

Sounds good, right? You'd want to be charged less than the landlord can legally charge you, right?

Wrong. Landlords can raise a preferential rent more than the Rent Guidelines Board allows. The exception to this is if you live in a rent-stabilized building, in which case your legal rent is the initial rent you pay, even if it's called "preferential."

The Metropolitan Council on Housing, a tenant rights group, states that landlords sometimes use "preferential rents to hide fraudulently high 'legal' rents."

met_council While actions for the RGB vote and state rent laws have wrapped up, we are still hard at work for #nyctenants! Stay tuned for updates on our work throughout the summer #yearofthetenant #tenantpower


It's all very confusing, but the main point is that you should ask for a legal rent. Legal rents are protected from absurd inflation under the law.

If you're paying a "preferential" rent and seeing huge rate increases, you should take WNYC's confidential survey. You should also take this survey if you believe your being over charged, or if you think your building should be rent-stabilized but it isn't.

WYNC's is seeking to determine where and how often the sneaky scamming and overcharging by landlords is happening. They're also interested in hearing about other weird provisions in your lease. 

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They found confidentiality provisions in a luxury apartment lease, but doubted it would hold if a tenant brought it up in court.

Help WNYC and ProPublica protect NYC's tenants. Tell them your story here, and do yourself a favor. Don't get scammed. 

Check out 5 Most Expensive Buildings in NYC

[via WNYC]

[Feature Image Courtesy NYC Apartments Now]

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