Assembly Passes Bills to Protect Tenants, Strengthen New York’s Rent Laws

February 3, 2009
Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced that the Assembly passed a package of bills today to protect tenants and strengthen New York’s rent laws. Without strong rent laws, tenants can be priced out of their homes and neighborhoods by sudden and drastic rent increases.

“Over two million New Yorkers live in housing covered by rent stabilization and rent control, but every year thousands of rent-regulated apartments become deregulated – driving up rents and forcing working families out of New York City,” Jacobs said.

“At a time when more and more New Yorkers are caught between the twin burdens of high rent and lost jobs, we need to do whatever we can to ensure that middle-income families and seniors can continue to stay in their homes,” Jacobs added.

The Assembly’s action followed a hearing held on Jan. 16, in which Assemblymembers heard from tenants struggling with skyrocketing rent, landlord harassment and, in some cases, eviction.

“I fought for this legislation because tenants in Brooklyn need a break,” Jacobs said. “For over a decade the Assembly Majority has battled the wealthy and powerful landlords whose primary goal is to end New York City’s rent protection laws permanently. This year I am confident we can finally make New York’s rent laws stronger.”

The 10-bill rent regulation package passed by the Assembly includes measures to:

  • Grant New York City the ability to regulate its own rents by removing the provision of law prohibiting cities of 1 million or more residents from strengthening rent-regulation laws (A.1688);
  • Repeal vacancy decontrol of apartments renting at $2,000 per month or more, and recapture all formerly rent-regulated apartments that rented for less than $5,000 per month in New York City and $3,500 outside of New York City (A.2005);
  • Increase civil penalties the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal can impose on landlords who harass tenants or who violate DHCR orders related to rent-regulated housing (A.2002);
  • Reduce the allowable rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent and limit the number of increases per year (A.1686);
  • Limit a building owner’s ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use (A.1685);
  • Increase the rent and income amounts at which a landlord can withdraw a unit from regulation on the grounds that the tenants are “high-income” (A.860);
  • Require landlords who charge a rent lower than the maximum amount to offer that same base rent as long as the same tenant resides in the apartment (A.465);
  • Permit the declaration of an emergency pursuant to the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) for rental housing accommodations located in buildings formerly covered by a project-based assistance contract pursuant to Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 (A.1687);
  • Extend the length of time over which major capital improvement (MCI) expenses may be recovered and require that rent surcharges authorized for MCIs cease when the cost of the improvement has been recovered (A.1928); and
  • Protect tenants in Mitchell-Lama developments by prohibiting an owner from applying for a rent increase based on unique and peculiar circumstances when a project withdraws from the program (A.857).

“Without rent regulation to prevent dramatic increases and unreasonable housing costs, only the wealthy would be able to afford living in New York City,” said Assemblywoman Jacobs. “This legislation will protect our teachers, firefighters, police officers and nurses from being priced out of their homes, and ensure that the people who keep our community running can afford to live here, too.”