I got a notice demanding a $500 per month rent increase

The first year my rent wasn't so bad. Then I got a notice saying that my rent would increase by over $500 a month! I thought it must be a mistake. I went to the leasing office and they said that it wasn't a mistake but that they could make me a better deal if I would sign a new lease. I was really busy at work and I didn't have time to move or even look for another apartment so I tried to negotiate a better deal. I wound up paying an increase of $150 a month -- still more than I could really afford -- but I was kind of relieved.

At the time, I didn't know anything about rental housing law or about rent stabilization. I later found out that the maximum legal rent increase is 2 percent plus inflation -- far less than what I ended up paying. I ran the math, and it turns out that I was overpaying by at least $100 a month. That's over $1,000 for the year -- a lot of money. I wish I had known then what I know now.

Name withheld
Graduate student from Tenleytown, age 26