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Your Landlord might be overcharging you — This is how a Tenant got her $6000 back

People are resorting to drastic measures to afford the rentals, and one of them is getting the rent stabilized.
Cover Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok
Cover Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok

Carla Badami's winter just got better when she realized she had been paying more rent than she legally owed for her flat. Carla took action after talking to her aunt in Queens, who had previously dealt with similar issues with a landlord. She got an important document from the state housing agency: her apartment's rent history and surprisingly paperwork proved that her landlord had charged her $1,850 despite listing her rent as $1,295. Carla, a social media expert, expressed her disbelief in a video that rapidly went viral.

Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok
Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok

Armed with this evidence, Carla decided to confront her landlord. She was determined to set things right. Before long, her landlord refunded her around $6,000 in overpaid rent and offered her a new lease at a reduced, stabilized rate of $1,468 per month.

Carla wasn't content with just sorting out her rental situation. She spoke with THE CITY, expressing her desire to help others in similar positions. So, she turned to TikTok to share her experience and encourage fellow tenants in rent-stabilized apartments to check their rent histories.

Carla explained, "Even if one person realizes like, ‘Oh my God, I’m rent-stabilized’…and ‘I’m getting overcharged’ — if that’s able to change their life in some way, then I feel really, really good about that, especially in this economic climate."

Her TikTok post, which she published roughly four weeks ago, has received more than four million views. This post contributes to a growing trend on the platform, spurred by previous content from a real estate review organization. The video has spawned a wave of TikTok tenant advice, digging into questions previously addressed by THE CITY in 2022, such as how to seek your rent history, why you may be overcharged by your landlord, and what measures to take if you are.

Increased demand load on DHCR

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), responsible for rent history requests, is facing a surge in workload, doubling from 750 to 2,000 inquiries weekly. This increase has extended processing times to about 10 days, compared to the usual one to three days. DHCR is dedicated to addressing requests promptly, but clients, like those of tenant attorney Jenny Akchin from Take Root Justice, may experience delays of around 20 working days due to a backlog caused by heightened social media activity.

Social media impact

The flood of TikTok posts about rent history and overcharges brought Jenny Akchin some comfort, despite the potential delays her clients might face. She mentioned how important spreading awareness about rent histories for tenants is to rent-stabilized apartments, regardless of the medium used. To her, if social media helps convey this crucial message to a wider audience of tenants, it's undoubtedly a good thing for all. 

A large number of people thanked Carla for sharing this information as it helped them get aware of this Act and cashback money from landlords.

Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok
Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok

Some viewers also said how it changed their lives as their rent was not stabilized. 

Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok
Image Source: thanks_management | Tiktok

Addressing the impact 

However, Akchin highlighted the critical necessity for DHCR to receive more cash from the state budget to successfully answer rent history requests and fulfill its other tasks.

Rent-stabilized apartments are more frequent than many New Yorkers know, accounting for 44% of all rental apartments. However, one should not confuse rent stabilization with rent-controlled flats, which are extremely rare, accounting for only around 1% of the rental housing inventory.

Akchin warned tenants that finding overcharges in their rent history documentation does not guarantee instant cash compensation or a new lease at a lower rent. While Carla Badami was lucky enough, most landlords are reluctant to comply with renters' legal entitlements. She stated that DHCR's overcharge investigations are often backlogged and can take many years. She emphasized the importance of sharing information, especially given the exorbitant housing prices in New York City, making it increasingly difficult for residents to afford living there.