Q: I’ve been renting an apartment in an eight-unit apartment building in Brooklyn for six years. After my initial one-year lease expired, I never had a renewal. During all these years, my rent has never increased, which is remarkable in my trendy neighborhood where I have seen friends move out because of rent increases. It was an incredible deal, but deep down I was always nervous that I had no protection and that the owner could send me off on a whim. What protections, if any, do I have?
A: Since the end of your original lease, you live under a month-to-month tenancy with your landlord based on the terms of your original lease. So if your lease, for example, included noise or pet rules, those rules still apply. Each month that your landlord accepts your rent check, you both agree to continue the arrangement for another 30 days.
If your landlord decides to raise your rent by more than 5% or asks you to move out, you’ll be protected by a New York State law that requires landlords to give tenants notice at the market rate: 30 days for those who have lived in the apartment for less than a year; 60 days for those who have been there for one to two years; and 90 days for those who have lived there for two years or more.
But you could have more protections. Your apartment could be rent-regulated, giving you all the rights of a rent-stabilized tenant, said David E. Frazer, an attorney who represents tenants. You should find out. Contact the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state agency that oversees rent-regulated apartments. Call the Rent Administration Office at 718-739-6400 to request your rent history or request the information online. Mr. Frazer suggested that you consult a lawyer for anything you find, even if the information does not prove that the apartment is regulated.
If you find that your apartment may be regulated, you have nothing to do with this information. Instead, save it in case conditions change. Your landlord sounds like someone who is “happy to have calm, happy, well-behaved tenants and the check comes in every month,” Mr. Frazer said. “The problem is that people get used to it, and one day they sell, and all of a sudden you’re at the mercy of new owners who definitely won’t have the same management business plan.”
If that day arrives and it turns out that you have the rights of a regulated tenant, you can exercise those rights at that time.