MANHATTAN — A new website is helping New Yorkers find out if they are living in a rent-stabilized unit — while being charged market-rate rent.
The site, named amirentstabilized.com, allows users to search for their buildings in a database and find out if there's a chance their unit should be protected under the city's rent-stabilization rules, said creator Chris Henrick 33, a student at Parson's MFA Design and Technology program.
The website will tell you if your building is on the city's list of addresses with units still on the rent stabilization rolls. While it can't tell you if your specific unit is one of them, it will help you navigate through the process of tracking that information down. The site contains links to different state agencies to help you get confirmation of your unit's status as well as forms to fill out a complaint if you're being overcharged.
Tenants could really gain a lot from looking at their rent history. Ramon Hernandez of Hamilton Heights found out his landlord had overcharged him for years and, with the help of a nonprofit, was awarded $112,000 in a state ruling.
"People should know about this because a lot of people are moving into apartments and may not even realize their apartment is rent-stabilized," Hernandez said. “My hope is that it becomes a way to prevent landlords from doing things like lying to their tenants about what their rent should be."
Henrick, who lives in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, said that while Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan focuses on building new units, there should be more focus on preserving the city’s current affordable apartment stock.
“The current rent-stabilized stock is estimated to be around 1 million apartments and if you look at what landlords are doing they really have no incentive to keep them,” he added. “For them it’s just a matter of business.”
Henrick came up with the database by combining a list of every rent-stabilized building from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal with a list of every building with more than six units built before 1974 —which are buildings advocates say are the buildings to most likely to be rent-stabilized.
The database contains more than 50,000 tax lots, which can have more than one building on the property, Henrick said.
A similar website, Apartable, which tells apartment hunters if buildings have any violations, launched last month.
New York City is going through an open data movement, with sites like Open Data NYC becoming more popular and more people finding more ways of making public data useful, Henrick said. But while most of the data is public information, it is not always easy to access, Henrick explained.
“I think data visualization and big data are trendy topics right now but I am more interested in trying to see how we can use this data to promote civic action,” he said.