Overcharge Refund Too Late To Avoid Triple Damages
LVT Number: 12622
Tenant complained of a rent overcharge. The DRA ruled for tenant, found that there was a willful overcharge, and directed landlord to refund triple damages to tenant. Landlord appealed. Before the DRA's order was issued, landlord and tenant had signed a settlement agreement in which landlord gave tenant a refund and tenant released landlord from any further claims. Tenant claimed he should get triple damages and that landlord signed the settlement agreement in an unrelated nonpayment case. The DHCR ruled against landlord. The settlement agreement didn't state tenant's intention to withdraw his rent overcharge complaint. The rent credit landlord gave tenant in the settlement agreement can't be considered a voluntary refund in response to tenant's overcharge claim. This is especially true in light of DHCR Policy Statement 89-2, which gives landlords the chance to avoid triple damages by making an overcharge refund within the time allowed to answer tenant's complaint. Landlord didn't do so in this case.
E.J. Chin Realty Corp.: DHCR Adm. Rev. Dckt. No. FI410252RO (5/8/98) [3-page document]