Winning an Overcharge Case Against Tenant Leads to Eviction: Using Detective Tactics Thousands in Rent Arrears Collected

By Carolyn Z. Rualo

A residential tenant who accumulated over $25,000 in rent arrears vacated the apartment leaving the landlord with a substantial money judgment that was considered uncollectible until her whereabouts were uncovered after our victory in this overcharge case. The tenant commenced this overcharge case in 2011. Our client, the current owner, was almost willing to abandon enforcement of the judgment until the Division of Housing and Community Renewal resurrected this overcharge case after it had sat dormant for about two years.

The case was resurrected by the Division’s demand that the landlord provide proof that the rent charged to this tenant in 2004 (nearly ten years ago!) when she moved in was comparable to what the market could bear for a similar apartment in the same neighborhood. This analysis is commonly referred to as a fair market rent analysis. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. guided the owner through what steps it could take to uncover comparable rent data from nearly ten years ago in order to win the case. Actual leases for apartments with comparable attributes, i.e. the same neighborhood, same dimensions, same location in the building, are hard proof that the rent charged was fair. Finding such a lease, even one, proved to be an impossible task and hiring an expert to dig up the proof would have been expensive. Ultimately, we submitted a DHCR Registration Report for a building in the same neighborhood with apartments of similar size and attributes and won the case. After submitting that proof, the winning decision was issued immediately and most importantly, the Division’s demands for document exchange unveiled to the landlord the tenant’s current residential address which enable it to enforce the otherwise empty money judgment.

Carolyn Rualo represented Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. in this case.

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