When a tenant rents a home from a landlord, there is usually a lease or an agreement drawn up that details how much the tenant will pay for rent and the deposit required. There is also information in the document about the responsibilities of the landlord to the tenant and what the tenant can or can’t do in the home. If a landlord has several properties, or even one or two properties that are managed, and asks for more money in addition to the amount of rent that has been set upon in order to have a better chance at renting a home or to have a better chance at signing another lease, the act is considered rent gouging. The landlord is trying to make more money off of the people who are renting from that person instead of abiding by the agreements that have been set forth. There are some landlords who will ask for money to support a political cause or an organization. When the chance of getting into a home or renewing a lease is dependent on the tenant donating money in this fashion along with paying the rent, it’s another form of first-degree rent gouging.
A landlord can be charged with gouging if more money is demanded or asked for if the rent is regulated by the government. Most of the time, there needs to be at least three separate incidents where the landlord attempts or receives more money that what is required each month for the act to be considered first-degree rent gouging. This crime is one that is considered a class E felony. In the event that the landlord is found guilty and a sentence is delivered, the landlord could be put in jail for up to four years. If jail is avoided, then the landlord could be placed on probation for up to five years. Fines and restitution to the tenants would also be a part of the punishment given.
Examples Of Rent Gouging
A landlord has three apartments that are available to rent. There is a set amount for each unit. Five people are interested in the units, so the landlord has to make a decision about who will get the three units. The landlord asks each person for more money for some reason or another in order to increase the possibility of getting into the unit. This is a typical form of rent gouging. Another example would be to tell a tenant that work will only be done to the home if more money is paid with the rent each month. If a tornado or another severe storm would come through an area and destroy a home or damage a home, a landlord might ask for more money from the tenant each month. The landlord could be increasing the price of the rent for those who live in homes that aren’t damaged in order to build another home or increase the rent to pay for the damages to be fixed to homes that tenants occupy.
Defenses To Rent Gouging
A NYC attorney can assist with a rent gouging charge by forcing the prosecution to prove that the landlord made three attempts or transactions to get money from tenants. If the attorney can examine the evidence and show that the money received was for a legitimate cause or reason, then the charges could be dropped.
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