Help me out please. I looove my apartment. The price is right, the location is stellar, but the landlord company leaves much to be desired. It is now January and they are finally notifying me that my lease is expired, as of October. They are pressuring me to come in and resign the lease from October, at which time they are going to raise the rent and make me pay back rent (back rent = the difference in the new higher rent vs. the rent I have been paying all along).

I understand I need a lease to keep my apartment, but what's the deal with paying back rent? Isn't it the landlord's responsibility to notify me when my lease is up to resign? Is it legal to make me pay that extra back rent? They pulled this stick last year and I paid the rent, but now I can't help but feel scammed...

It is the landlord's responsibility to notify you of lease renewal terms in a timely manner. Legally, he is supposed to let you know 90 to 150 days before your lease expires. (In theory, you then would have 60 days to accept the terms.) Your landlord dropped the ball; the Rent Guidelines Board recommends lodging a formal complaint with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. (You want form RA-90 from here.)

About the back rent: this seems suspicious. You shouldn't have to pay anything until a new agreement is signed. (And, if you're in a rent stabilized apartment, the rent can only be increased by a certain amount.)

Housing court tends to err on the side of the tenants; it might not come to that, but you should point out to your landlord that, by law, you should have had the renewal lease last September. If the landlord is faced with legal action, he might forego the back rent. Also, if your landlord wants back rent, that all needs to be in writing.

See also: From the Rent Guidelines Board, lease renewal FAQ, the lease renewal laws for 2005, and the housing court guidelines.