May 19, 2015

Assembly Legislation Strengthens Rent Regulations,
Protects Tenants

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, at an afternoon press conference, announced the Assembly's plan to pass legislation today to protect tenants from exorbitant rent increases and ensure access to safe and affordable housing. To underscore the financial struggle facing many New Yorkers of low-income households and who live in rent-regulated apartments, Heastie noted that 41 percent of their monthly earnings are spent on housing costs. The Speaker was joined by Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright, other Assembly Majority members and advocates.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Housing Committee Chair Keith L.T. Wright today announced the passage of legislation that would provide stronger regulations for rent-regulated properties and protect the rights of tenants in New York (A.7526).

"We must secure the place of working families in New York. They are the fabric of our communities and have long been the foundation upon which our state is built," said Speaker Heastie. "For too long we have seen ever increasing rents and stagnant wages driving these families from neighborhoods they shaped. We must stand against the continued harassment that families face and provide our communities with stable homes."

"As a resident of the same rent-stabilized apartment in which I grew up, I know firsthand how important affordable housing is to New York's continued success," said Assemblyman Wright. "By providing stronger rent laws and strengthening protections for residents, we can keep countless New Yorkers in their homes with the knowledge that their rights are secure."

The legislation would strengthen existing rent regulations with the aim of maintaining affordable housing in New York State. Its provisions include: prohibiting owners from adjusting preferential rent upon lease renewal, repealing vacancy decontrol, and establishing that rental increases associated with major capital improvements (MCIs) and individual apartment improvements (IAIs) be separately designated and billed as surcharges, and must cease when the cost of the MCI or IAI has been recovered.

In addition, the legislation would establish the crime of second-degree harassment of a rent-regulated tenant when an owner intentionally makes housing uninhabitable, unsafe, or unhealthy, and causes a tenant to vacate. The civil penalties for tenant harassment would also increase. A violation of an order of the Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) would result in a penalty between $1,000 and $2,000 for the first offense, rising to between $2,000 and $4,000 for each subsequent offense. Harassment of a tenant to cause the tenant to vacate would result in a penalty between $2,000 and $5,000 for a first offense, rising to between $10,000 and $15,000 for each subsequent offense or for a violation targeted at more than one tenant.

The legislation would also: