HAMILTON HEIGHTS — A landlord who owes a tenant $112,000 knew he was overcharging for the rent-stabilized apartment for more than 20 years but never tried to correct it, state housing officials have ruled.
In June, the state's Division of Housing and Community Renewal determined that Nevei Bais owed Ramon Hernandez $112,000 for charging too much rent on his regulated four-bedroom St. Nicholas Avenue apartment.
So far, the tenant he has been unable to collect a penny because the landlord appealed the decision.
The building management company claimed it shouldn't be held responsible because the apartment's rent was frozen at $233 in 1993 before they bought the building and they corrected the overcharge as soon as they found out about it, under DHCR's order.
But according to the building's deed, Nevei Bais bought it in June 1992, 11 months before the rent was frozen.
“The petitioner’s first contention that they did not own the building when the rent reduction order was issued is not supported by the facts,” reads the order signed by commissioner Woody Pascal and issued Wednesday.
“Despite having knowledge of the rent reduction order in 1993, the petitioner took no action over the next 20 years to adjust the rent in accordance with the order and did not file an application to restore the rent until 2013.”
The apartment's rent was frozen in August 1993 after the tenant at the time, not Hernandez, complained about broken doors, windows and kitchen appliances.
Once the landlord fixed the issues the rent would be unfrozen but the repairs were never made, according to DHCR.
Hernandez and his family moved in in 2006 and, when he faced eviction in 2013 after a work injury accident left him unable to make the $1,300 rent, he asked the state to investigate with the help of a tenant advocacy group called Pa'Lante.
He went to the Dominican Republic to visit his family in the beginning of March and isn't scheduled to return until April. It is unclear if Hernandez is aware of the decision, family members said. He could not be reached by phone or email Monday.
The landlord, who previously told DNAinfo that he no longer owned the building, was not immediately available for comment. Neither was the building’s management company, Tamrak Management Corp.
“It feels great,” Hernandez previously told DNAinfo about the June ruling. “It’s like the landlord is being punished for years of bad service.”
He encouraged more tenants to look at their apartment’s rent history and make sure they weren’t being overcharged.
“People need to wake up because they all have their eyes closed like I did,” Hernandez said.
“People don’t pay attention to anything beyond whether their walls are painted or bathrooms work.”