Assembly Acts to Protect Tenants and Strengthen New York’s Rent Laws

April 14, 2011

The State Assembly took an important step on Monday to protect tenants’ rights and extend and reform New York State’s rent laws. We passed comprehensive legislation by a vote of 92-54 that encompasses many of the measures championed by the Assembly in previous years, and extends current rent-regulation laws for five years until June 15, 2016.

New York’s rent protection laws enable you can have a stable home even if you don’t own a house or a co-op or condo. It means tenants can put down real roots in the community, and neighborhoods can maintain the exciting diversity that makes the City work.

Included in the legislation is repeal of the Urstadt Law, which currently prohibits New York City from strengthening its rent-regulation provisions.

The Assembly’s legislation repeals the vacancy decontrol law that permits landlords to remove apartments from rent-regulation in New York City when the apartment becomes vacant. Under current law, when tenants in a rent-regulated apartment move out and the apartment rent is over $2,000 per month, the newly vacated unit is no longer subject to rent regulations.

Vacancy decontrol has made it difficult for working families to find affordable housing. It has opened a Pandora’s Box of unethical housing practices, because it gives landlords an incentive to drive out existing tenants in rent-regulated apartments so they can charge inflated market rents to the next tenants.

Other components of the bill include:

  • limit a building owner’s ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use to one unit, and prevent a landlord from recovering an apartment occupied by a long-term tenant or senior citizen;
  • reduce the amount of rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent and limit the number of allowable increases to one per year;
  • limit individual apartment improvement rent increases to 1/60th of the cost of the improvement – which are currently allowed at 1/40th – and establish review processes by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal;
  • allow all former federal Section 8 housing properties to be subject to rent regulation even if constructed after January 1974;
  • reclaim deregulated units under certain circumstances.
  • raise the so-called “luxury decontrol” thresholds to $3,000 per month in rent, and $300,000 per year in income;
  • require the costs of major capital improvements to be charged to tenants as a surcharge, not as part of the base rent, and require the surcharges to cease when the cost of the improvement has been recovered; and
  • extend from three years to six years the length of time a landlord must own a rental property before the it is eligible to apply for a hardship rent adjustment.

This legislation will help to ensure that tenants are treated fairly and can afford to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, and help preserve New York’s strength, diversity and creativity.