standard State Assembly Passes Range of Bills to Enhance Tenants’ Rights

empty buildings

Roofless buildings on Flushing Avenue (via Wikimedia Commons)

What You Need to Know

A series of bills passed in the State Assembly would enhance tenants’ rights, ensure fair housing practices, and expand and protect affordable housing.

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Assembly Member Joe Lentol (D-No. Bklyn) co-sponsored the legislation. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Why This Is Important

“With the cost of living in North Brooklyn [and elsewhere] increasing so rapidly, it’s important to have strong rent regulation laws on the books to make sure hardworking families can afford to stay in their homes,” said State Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The bundle of bills, with a range of sponsors, provides a number of disincentives for landlords who might otherwise be inclined to pressure rent-stabilized tenants to vacate their properties. As rents continue to skyrocket, the proposed measures would restrict the extent to which landlords could cash in via exploitative measures.

“Without these protections, more and more North Brooklyn families would be forced from their homes and our neighborhoods would suffer,” Lentol added.

What Happens From Here

It’s now on to the State Senate, where companion legislation introduced is being considered. But even if passed by both houses, the fate of the bills will then sit with Governor Cuomo.

“It is a very large package of bills, so there’s the likelihood that some of then might not make it through or get watered down,” an aide to Assembly Member Lentol said.

Other Proposals

Another proposal, introduced in both legislative houses by Assembly Member Lentol and State Senator Martin Dilan, would criminalize the actions of landlords who intentionally sabotage rent regulated apartments.

Known as The Sabotage of Rent Regulated Accommodations Act, that legislation is pending but was referred to a committee for a review. Its ultimate fate is unclear.

“The sheer malice of intentionally sabotaging a rent regulated apartment is criminal and those who would do it need to be treated as such,” State Senator Dilan told the Greenpoint Gazette in an earlier interview, in support of the legislation.

Similar Efforts in the NYC Council

The legislation in Albany comes on the heels of similar efforts in the New York City Council, where the Quality Housing Act was recently introduced to significantly expand financial penalties for landlords who fail repeated inspections of the same violation.

And the City Council has their own version of a landlord criminalization bill pending.

Opposition

“In a situation where the rents themselves are too low or you have tenants who have withheld rent for a variety of reasons, instead of trying to identify the owner as a bad guy, the solution is for the city…to come in and try to find out what the hell is going on,” Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association told the Wall Street Journal
*(in response to proposed NYC Council legislation)

The Full Details

The legislative package passed by the Assembly includes measures to:

  • eliminate vacancy decontrol provisions. Vacancy decontrol allows apartments that have a legal maximum rent in excess of $2,500 that become vacant to be removed from the protections of the rent regulation laws. Additionally, the bill would allow certain units that were deregulated pursuant to vacancy decontrol to become reregulated (A.1585);
  • limit a landlord’s ability to recover rent-regulated units for their own personal use or use by an immediate family member by allowing for the recovery of only one unit to be used as a primary residence. The bill also restricts that ability if a tenant has occupied the apartment for 15 or more years (A.5177);
  • reduce the amount, from 20 percent to 7.5 percent of the current rental cost, that a landlord can increase the rent after a vacancy of a rent-stabilized unit  (A.5178);
  • require that rent surcharges allowed for major capital improvements stop when the cost of the improvement has been recovered (A.5373);
  • prohibit increasing preferential rent to the legally allowed rate when a lease is renewed – such increases could only take place upon vacancy (A.5473);
  • require major capital improvement (MCI) rent adjustments to be offset by 100 percent of the total annual tax abatement benefits, along with any tax abatement benefits received before the MCI rent adjustment that results from participation in the J-51 program (A.5827);
  • include former federal Section 8 projects in the types of multiple dwellings that are covered by the New York City Rent Stabilization Law, even if they were constructed after 1974 (A.5828);
  • require New York City Council confirmation of the mayor’s appointees to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board (A.104-A – amended to A.104-B);
  • require that an owner of a rent-regulated unit comply with an order issued more than four years before an overcharge complaint if the order has not been withdrawn and allow for the examination of a unit’s rental history beyond four years in the cases involving fraud (A.748);
  • prohibit the Rent Guidelines Board from granting annual rent increases based on a unit’s current rental rate or the amount of time since the unit’s rent increased (A.991);
  • extend the amount of time – from 3 years to 6 years – that a landlord must own a rental property before the owner is eligible to apply for a hardship rent adjustment (A.2181); and
  • require buildings removed by their landlords from the Mitchell-Lama program to become rent-stabilized, even if they were constructed after 1974 (A.4051).

Supplemental Coverage

Legislation to Fight Slumlords Introduced [Greenpoint Gazette]

Tenants Living in Rubble Amid Rent-Regulated Apartment War [New York Times]

Do-Nothing Landlords Face Penalties Under Bill [The Real Deal]
*(in response to proposed NYC Council legislation)

Bill Proposes New Penalties For Landlords [Wall Street Journal]
*(in response to proposed NYC Council legislation)