My landlord is overcharging me for rent and electricity and refuses to show bill what actions can I take against him ?
1 attorney answer
Dear Wyandanch Tenant:
A basement apartment in a single family home cannot be a legal rental unit. An illegal dwelling usually means the landlord cannot rent and so cannot have a tenant. What makes the unit illegal? For one, there is no rental permit; because the basement apartment is not a lawful housing accommodation. A second reason the basement is an illegal dwelling is because it does not exist on the building Certificate of Occupancy. Amazingly, in some locations in Nassau and Suffolk Counties a landlord may have a claim for rent even when renting an apartment that is not described on the Certificate of Occupancy, and is illegal to rent. In many jurisdictions an owner must secure a rental permit for any rental unit. An "illegal" unit will not allow for a legal rental since a rental permit will not issue. So you rented an illegal apartment and may still owe rent to the landlord but the landlord may get into trouble with code enforcement authorities.
In any case, in a rental market that is "free" from government regulation, the tenant and landlord decide on the rent charged. There is nothing wrong charging a tenant double or even triple the market rent if the tenant had no problem agreeing to an exorbitant rent.
The right to charge for electricity is likely described in the lease. If the lease did not require the landlord to show utility bills to the tenant, then the tenant is not going to see those bills. Since your basement apartment in the house is an illegal dwelling there is no separate meter to measure your electrical use and cost. The landlord can make up whatever pass along cost to you for your two room apartment.
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