From 2013-2015, we focused particular attention on the non-rent fees that many landlords are aggressively putting on tenants’ bills and the State’s role in regulating and enforcing the law in regard to these fees. This include fees on appliances (air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher), legal fees, damage fees, Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increases and other miscellaneous fees. Often these fees appear on a tenant’s rent bill without any explanation. If a tenant fails to pay, even if they are unaware of why the fee was imposed, they are often threatened with eviction by the landlord. Most tenants have a right to object to many of these fees, and landlords are legally prohibited from taking tenants to Housing Court solely for non-payment of additional fees. But many tenants don’t know their rights about the fees and often pay them when they shouldn’t. For low-income and working class tenants who struggle each month to pay rent, these fees add up and make their housing costs unaffordable. While some of the fees are legal, many of them are not, and the consistency and pattern of the way the fees are being charged and collected suggests that some landlords are intentionally increasing tenants’ rent burdens to push out long-term, rent stabilized tenants.
We partnered with the Urban Justice Center to research these fees and their impact on tenants. We collected 172 surveys and data from 196 tenants, which showed that 81% of tenants are being charged non-rent fees with an average of $671.13 on their most recent rent bill. In September of 2013, we held a press conference to release our report, The Burden of Fees: How Affordable Housing is Made Unaffordable, followed by a policy briefing to bring together Bronx tenants, housing advocates, and elected officials to discuss this very serious and widespread problem.
In 2015, we collected over 500 surveys from more than 200 buildings across the city to show that this issue is not just an issue in the Bronx but a citywide issue! We also collected close to 100 rent bills from tenants across the city and filed close to 50 overcharge complaints with the State’s Department of Homes and Community Renewal! In April of 2015, we released an addendum to our original report. As a result of our advocacy, DHCR issued memos clarifying which fees are legal and how to file complaints with the state!
Today, we continue to organize in buildings where tenants are fighting unjust illegal fees! If you are fighting unjust increases, let us know!
For more information contact:
(718) 716-8000 ext. 243