Unscrupulous landlords often attempt to jack up the base rent on a regulated apartment by making improvements at exaggerated cost before a new tenant moves in. By law, in buildings of 35 units or fewer, the landlord is entitled to add one-fortieth or 2 ½ % of the cost of improvements to the monthly rent. In larger properties, the limit is one-sixtieth of upgrade expenditures. Improvements can include new construction, enhancements, additional services, new appliances, equipment or other fixtures, plus installation expenses. Some landlords grossly inflate these costs. This constitutes illegal overcharging. If you suspect you've been overcharged, you may have to sue the landlord to correct your rent. To defend against this kind of abuse you have to require the landlord to produce all contracts, orders, and invoices, along with evidence of payment such as canceled checks and receipts. These documents are legally necessary to justify rent increases for individual apartment improvements, and you may need the help of a Tenants' attorney to obtain them. For many alterations, work permits and related government agency certificates are needed. These should be secured also. If you prove you've been overcharged, the landlord will have to adjust your rent to the lower amount and refund any excess you paid. The penalty for this violation may be triple the overcharge, plus reasonable attorneys fees.
Attention New York City Tenants: See this new page that has just been added to the McAdams Law main site on Bad Conditions .