The fact is that what they're doing may be illegal. You've caught them with their hand in the cookie jar. They may pay a high price for trying to cheat people like you.

You should go on offense and let them know that you are wise to the scam. This will make them more careful with you and it will increases chances that you'll end up with a fairer rent.

Here are two serious violations worth mentioning:

  • They advertised your apartment for one price and didn't tell you that the real “rent” (by their definition) was up to twice as much. That's false advertising -- which is illegal.
  • They tricked you into signing a lease with a ridiculously high amount listed as the "rent." They told you that this high number was just a "formality" and that it is required by rental housing law. This likely also is illegal and it should invalidate your lease.

It may be worth mentioning these other damning actions:

  • They submitted a false "rent" amount for your apartment to the city. By law they should be fined $5,000 for this. These filings were made under penalty of perjury.
  • They sent you a rent increase form with an incorrect "rent" listed on it. They may have listed both themselves and the city in the letterhead, implying that the amounts have been sanctioned by the city. This may be seen as a deceptive practice.
  • They are creating an effective rent ceiling by putting a ridiculously high "rent" on the lease. Rent ceilings specifically were abolished by law in 2006.

NEXT: Threaten (nicely)