Rent Laws & Tenants’ Rights

CB6 recognizes affordable housing as one of the district’s most pressing needs. CB6 understands that the best way to protect our current stock of affordable housing is to ensure that the laws governing rent stabilization are renewed before they expire in June. Community District 6 has close to 24,000 affordable rent stabilized units. However, the only way to ensure that these units remain affordable is to close the loopholes which allow landlords to deregulate their stabilized units, converting them to market rate. At the February 13, 2019 Full Board meeting, CB6 adopted a resolution supporting a Universal Rent Control legislative platform. We believe that this legislative package will help preserve the current stock of affordable housing in our district as well as address the statewide housing crisis.

Loopholes in the Existing Rent Stabilization Laws

Vacancy Decontrol – In 1993, the New York State legislature instituted High-Rent Vacancy Deregulation, which allows landlords to permanently deregulate rent-stabilized apartments once the rent reaches $2,733 a month and the current occupant leaves the unit. Since 1994, at least 155,664 units were deregulated due to High-Rent Vacancy Deregulation, 70% of which have been in Manhattan. State Senate Bill S2591and State Assembly Bill A1198 would eliminate vacancy decontrol.

Vacancy Bonus – In 1997, the State took the authority to regulate the increase in vacancy lease from the City—through the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997. This piece of state legislation grants the landlord a 20% vacancy bonus to increase the legal rent of an apartment when the previous tenant leaves. This 20% bonus allows the landlord to push the legal rent closer to the $2,700 threshold at which the apartment can become permanently deregulated (market rate), once the current tenant moves out. However, once the rent has reached $2,700, if the current tenant’s income exceeds $200,000 for the two consecutive years before (or any two consecutive years after), the apartment can become deregulated even if they do not move out. This vacancy bonus loophole incentivizes tenant harassment/consistent tenant turnover by giving the landlord a material gain by having long-term tenants move out and by having high turnover of tenants in a particular apartment. State Senate Bill S185 and State Assembly Bill A2351 would eliminate the vacancy bonus.

Major Capital Improvements (MCIs) and Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs) –Under the current rent stabilization laws, landlords can pass the cost of major capital improvements (MCIs) and individual apartment improvements (IAIs) to their tenants through an additional and permanent charge on top of a tenant’s base rent. Although in many of these buildings, systems repairs are necessary—either because the components of a building’s infrastructure exceed their useful life as defined by the Division of Homes and Community Renewal or due to years of neglect by the landlord—many landlords often overstate the cost and extent of renovations because they can permanently pass the cost onto their tenants (even after the landlord has recouped cost of the repair or improvement). State Senate Bill S3770, State Senate Bill S3693State Assembly Bill A6465 and State Assembly Bill A6322 would eliminate the ability of landlords to pass along these costs to tenants.

Good/Just Cause Eviction Protection – One of the benefits of being a rent stabilized tenant is the right to a renewal lease–with a rent increase as dictated by the Rent Guidelines Board. This means that a landlord has to offer the current tenant a renewal lease, assuming they are in good standing with their rent. The 5 million New Yorkers who are not rent stabilized tenants do not have this same protection. State Senate Bill S2892A and State Assembly Bill A8030A proposes to extend this protection to nearly all tenants across the state. The legislation would prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant or not offering them a renewal lease unless the tenant has failed to pay rent their rent. However, failure to pay rent is not a cause for eviction if it is due to an “unconscionable rent increase,” which the law defines as being an increase greater than 1.5 times the annual percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the region.

If enacted, this law would give market rate tenants the protection of knowing that when their lease is about to expire that they will not suddenly be priced out of their neighborhood. This law would be a bulwark against the rampant gentrification and displacement occurring citywide and statewide–preserving neighborhood affordability not just for the fortunate tenants who are covered under the current rent stabilization framework.