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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.
New York Penal Law 180.56: Rent gouging in the second degree
New York City is one of the most populated and dense cities in the world. Due to the strong economic strength and allue of the city, it also has a very competitive real estate market. This is particularly true for rental units, which could see dramatic increases in rent. To protect the rights of tenants, and control rental prices, the city has a number of rent gouging and control laws. One of the more significant is rent gouging in the second degree.
The crime of rent gouging in the second degree is a crime in which a landlord forces a tenant to pay a fee on top of rent for a future promise. A common future promise could include the promise to sign a lease or the promise to renew the lease in the future. For rent gouging in the second degree, the amount of money received on top of rent must exceed $250.
There have been many examples of rent gouging in the second degree in the past. One example of this would be a situation in which a landlord has a unit for rent. In the city, it is common that a market-priced lease will receive a number of applications. After the landlord has gone through the applications, they may feel enticed to earn more money based on the demand. If the landlord requires the winning tenant to pay a fee in excess of $250, this could be a violation of the law.
If the fee $250 or more fee was disclosed at the time of marketing, it would not be a violation. However, any additional fee charged for any additional promise or to increase the chance of winning, would be considered a violation.
Defense of the Crime
Those that have been charged with rent gouging in the second degree should consider hiring a lawyer to help with the situation. A NYC criminal lawyer could help build a case. A common defense to the case would be making it difficult to prove that the $250 was for a future promise. A defense attorney could make the case that the landlord required this as an additional fee due to concerns over the tenants credit worthiness or background. Furthermore, if the amount of the penalty was below $250, it would automatically be a first degree offense and the case would be tossed out.
The New York law takes rent gouging in the second degree very seriously. The punishment of the crime will vary considerably from one person to the next. In most cases, the judge will fine the landlord a nominal amount and will require them to reimburse the victim the amount of money, plus additional damages.
If the convicted person has a history of these charges, there could be a more sever penalty. A judge has the right to sentence someone up to 1 year in prison for the crime and fees could increase beyond $10,000 for multiple offenses.
Those that are convicted could also face civil penalties as well. The victim in the case would have a strong case for a civil lawsuit and the city may attempt to restrict the landlord for leasing properties in the future.
In conclusion, rent gouging in the second degree is a serious penalty in New York. Those that are charged with the crime should consider hiring a NYC criminal attorney. NYC criminal lawyers that are experienced in these types of cases will be able to help you to negotiate with the judge and prosecutor. This could help you to avoid more serious penalties and fines due to the crime.
New York Penal Law 180.55: Rent gouging in the third degree
New York Penal Law 180.55: Rent gouging in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor offense. In simple terms, this penalty relates to asking a tenant or potential tenant for an additional payment of less than two hundred fifty dollars on top of the agreed upon rent in order to secure a lease or renew a lease contract. Asking for extra money from such a person is called rent gouging. This practice is illegal in the state of New York.
It is possible to be charged with rent gouging in the third degree if you accept or make an agreement to accept extra money on top of the monthly rent price solely based on the intention of accepting a tenant or potential tenant. Also, if one were to deny a tenant access to a lease if they do not pay this extra sum of money, they are guilty of New York penal law 180.55. Beyond denying the lease, it is also considered rent gouging in the third degree if the chances for accepting the lease are diminished if the tenant or potential tenant does not pay the additional amount of less than two hundred fifty dollars.
There are two additional degrees of rent gouging. New York Penal Law 180.56 deals with rent gouging in the second degree. New York Penal Law 180.57 is rent gouging in the first degree. Both are related offenses and are subject to either repeat offenses or higher sums of agreed upon money aside from the rent in exchange for securing a lease.
Being that New York City is some of the most sought after real estate in the country, for any given apartment there are usually several candidates a landlord considers. If, after interviewing the nominees and narrowing down the possibilities, a landlord calls the family he prefers the most and says that their lease application would be approved pending a $200 payment to the home’s “renovation costs.” If the family paid the landlord this sum and then noticed that the home looked exactly the same as it did when they first viewed it, they are likely to ask the landlord where the money was spent. If the money was kept solely for the securing of the lease and not put into renovation, the landlord is guilty of rent gouging in the third degree.
Rent gouging is contingent upon a sum of money paid of less than two hundred fifty dollars to secure a potential lease. It is possible to argue that this payment was paid for the purpose of extending a tenant on their lease or obtaining a new tenant based on this money. For instance, a NYC criminal attorney could argue that the money presented in the charge was paid for securing a lease. It is possible that the money was paid for a pet deposit, for a security deposit, for payment of monthly or yearly amenities (such as hot water, electricity, or gas), a deposit on the furniture in a furnished apartment, or some other legal reason. In this way, one could challenge the charge of New York Penal Code 180.55: rent gouging in the third degree.
Being that rent gouging in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor crime, there is a possible maximum of 90 days in prison pending conviction. In addition, one could face up to one year of probation, payment of a fine, and restitution paid to the victim of the rent gouging.
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