Rent Law Deadline : Protections Expire June 15

 

URC Albany 001
Tenants and community advocates went en masse to Albany to voice the need for tenant protections in the new rent law. A major cause of homelessness is unaffordable rents.

June might be bustin’ out all over with local tenant rallies and landlord lobbies in Albany because on June 15th New York State’s rent stabilization laws expire. When the Democrats took the majority in the state government in November, tenants’ hopes were raised that affordable rents would be bolstered with more protections. This hope has spurred tenants and community organizers to rally in their neighborhood streets and up in Albany, sending a clear message to their elected officials.  Building owners have also campaigned for their interests. Some of their lobbying efforts come from Rent Stabilization Association of N.Y.C., Inc., (RSA) that despite its name is largest NYC trade association dedicated to protecting the interests of the residential housing industry.

The tenants have statistics that support the need for affordable housing protection and implementation. The loss of affordable housing in NYC is data backed fact. According to Community Service Society’s appraisal based on city Housing and Vacancy Survey data there were 1.7 million 1970 rent regulated apartments (1.3 million were rent controlled and 400K were rent stabilized) compared to 2017’s calculations of 1.1 million regulated units with an estimated 98% of those being rent stabilized with the rent controlled ones being phased out due to the change in the rent regulation system in 1971. Vacancy decontrol (where rent stabilization can be abolished after a tenant leaves if the rent is at least $2733 ) was the reason at least 155,000 unit lost rent stabilization protection. Also owners’ use of Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs) has been used to tack on permanent increases to rent stabilized units. On June 24, 2016 the Village Voice reported, “Major Capital Improvements, will allow city landlords to reap a windfall estimated to be more than $270 million this year, according to state figures.”

Building owners, especially the ones who aren’t in the real estate mogul category and claim to reap a middleclass or lower income from their tenants, want to protect the use of MCIs and IAIs. They say otherwise the expenses for say a new boiler or roof could put them into debt.

However Senate Bill 3693, one of the nine bills that tenants are hoping will pass before June 15th,  calls into question the owners’ argument to maintain MCIs and IAIs, “that permanent increases in rents are no longer necessary to incentivize rental property owners to make, or to compensate landlords for, necessary major capital improvements; that publicly funded tax incentives and other subsidies are available to rental property owners to support major capital improvements; that value from major capital improvements accrues to rental property owners through increased property values and sale prices.”

Here’s a glimpse of the nine bills still in committee:

  1. Expand the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (S5040/A7046)

Purpose: to allow any city or town across the state to regulate rents and evictions when there is a housing emergency, defined by a vacancy rate of 5% or less. Currently, the law has “arbitrary geographic restrictions” that only allow Nassau, Westchester and Rockland counties and New York City to regulate rents in a housing emergency.

 

  1. Prohibit evictions “without good cause” (S2892/A5030)

Primary sponsors: Sen. Julia Salazar, Assemb. Pamela Hunter

Purpose: to prohibit a landlord from evicting a tenant without a good reason. Valid reasons include failure to pay rent —unless the failure was due to an “unconscionable” rent increase. “Unconscionable” is defined as increases more than 1.5 times the local inflation rate. Other valid reasons would be ” committing or permitting a nuisance, permitting the premises to be used for an illegal purpose, not giving access for improvements or repairs required by law, or the premises are to be personally occupied by the landlord or close relatives of the landlord as their primary residence.” As to the latter, tenants that disabled or are 62 or older are exempt, and if a tenant can prove there is no “compelling necessity” for this owner occupancy they will recoup damages and attorney’s fees.

 

  1. End vacancy decontrol (S2591/A1198)

Purpose: to repeal a provision that allows landlords to permanently deregulate rent-stabilized apartments when the rent becomes more than $2,700 and a tenant moves out. More than 300,000 rent-stabilized apartments were deregulated in New York City and Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland counties because of vacancy decontrol. With each passing year affordable housing units are being lost at an increasing rate.

 

  1. Eliminate the vacancy bonus (S185/A2351)

Purpose: to repeal a provision that allows landlords to raise the price of a rent-stabilized unit by 20 percent (known as the “statutory vacancy bonus”) when the apartment changes tenants.

 

  1. Make preferential rents permanent (S2845A/A4349)

Purpose: to prohibit building owners from revoking a rent-stabilized tenant’s preferential rent, a price agreed to at an initial lease signing that is below the legally allowed maximum for an apartment, at lease renewals. Landlords would only be allowed to change the preferential rent when an apartment is vacated.

 

  1. End rent hikes for “major capital improvements” (S3693/A6322)

Purpose: to eliminate a law that lets landlords permanently raise rents on rent-regulated apartments because of building-wide improvements or replacement of a building system. “Permanent increases in rents are no longer necessary to incentivize rental property owners to make, or to compensate landlords for, necessary major capital improvements,” the bill says, adding that tax incentives, increased property value and other benefits are sufficient.

“A substantial number of the rent increases previously granted for major capital improvements were tainted by inflated costs,” the bill says.

 

  1. End rent hikes for individual apartment improvements (S3770/A6465)

Primary sponsor: Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Assemb. Diana Richardson

Purpose: is similar to the legislation above, this bill would repeal a provision that lets landlords raise rent on a rent-stabilized apartment because of repairs or renovations. Bill authors say the law allowed landlords to make unnecessary improvements in order to raise the rent.

 

  1. Extend time for overcharge complaints (S4169/A5251)

Purpose: to eliminate the statute of limitations for rent-stabilized tenants to file rent overcharge complaints. Currently tenants have only four years to file for this.  The bill also allows the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to review all relevant rent history when investigating complaints.

 

  1. Rent control and rent stabilization parity (S299A/A167)

Purpose: to cap the maximum rent increase on rent-controlled apartments at a rate on par with the Rent Guidelines Boards’ increases for rent-stabilized apartments. At the present time, rent increases for rent-controlled apartments are not set by Rent Guidelines Boards the way increases for rent-stabilized apartments are and can be much higher.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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