The state’s laws regulating rent increases and eviction policies for the more than two million New Yorkers who live in rent-regulated housing — including thousands of our neighbors — expired Monday night after Albany lawmakers could not reach an agreement to extend them.
The move has been met with vehement condemnation from city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio — who called this situation a “nightmare scenario,” local legislators and neighbors, including members of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition.
“Over two million people, who depended on affordable housing, depended on rent regulation to make sure that they and their family can stay in the neighborhood – all that is in doubt at this very moment,” de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday. “And none of us are taking it lightly because we’ve seen so much inaction from Albany lately that we have to be worried about the nightmare scenario where these laws actually lapse.”
The Assembly, which in May passed legislation strengthening the rent laws, approved a motion yesterday to extend the rent regulation laws for 48 hours to allow for more negotiation, but the Senate did not back the move. Instead, the Republican-led Senate voted yesterday to extend the rent regulation laws for another eight years, keeping both vacancy decontrol and the 421-a property tax abatement for developers — two things that neighbors and local legislators have strongly advocated against.
Vacancy decontrol allows landlords to charge market rent on an apartment once the rent reaches $2,500 a month. Flatbush Tenant Coalition leaders, Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Jumaane Williams have slammed this law, saying it gives incentive to landlords to use illegal tactics, such as pretending to lose tenants’ rent checks or not making needed repairs, to push out the rent-regulated tenants and rent the unit to individuals who can pay the higher market-rate price.
The 421-a tax exemption program provides tax breaks for developers who offer affordable housing in newly constructed buildings. Area residents, including Councilman Jumaane Williams, have lambasted the program, saying it is responsible for lining luxury developers’ pockets with taxpayers’ money and paving the way for rapid gentrification.
In general, weak rent regulation laws have led to the loss of 35,000 rent-regulated apartments since 2011, Williams and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a recent New York Observer op-ed.
The op-ed stated:
While the City has committed to building 80,000 affordable units in the coming decade, at least 110,000 families stand to lose their rent-regulated apartments over the same period.
New construction alone will not solve our housing crisis. Strengthening rent regulation boldly and decisively is integral to maintaining affordability and diversity within our neighborhoods
In light of legislators’ inability to come to an agreement, elected officials called on state lawmakers to quickly pass legislation that will protect tenants.
“I am disappointed by the inability of political leadership in Albany to agree on the much-needed strengthening our city’s rent regulations,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a press statement. “Even more, I am dismayed by the uncertainty and fear that may be experienced by tenants residing in about 300,000 impacted apartment units across Brooklyn. The state must act swiftly to pass new retroactively-applied rent regulations and it must seize this moment to enact important reforms, including vacancy decontrol.”
While the laws have lapsed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed there “will be no short term emergency.”
“The new [legislation] package will be retroactive, and any landlord who attempts to exploit this situation will face serious legal consequences,” Cuomo said in statement. “I have been clear and unambiguous: this Legislature will not leave Albany without passing new rent regulation laws for the more than two million tenants who depend on these protections.
“While the Legislature needs to act immediately, New York tenants should know that this state government will have zero tolerance for landlords that seek to exploit those who live in rent regulated units,” Cuomo continued.
To see a letter Cuomo sent to landlords outlining their responsibilities after the rent laws lapsed, you can go here.
Regardless of these promises, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition issued harsh words for the governor and said in an email:
Last night, Cuomo created a crisis so he can try to swoop in like a hero to “extend” the laws as is, with no strengthening. During this crisis, (formerly) rent stabilized tenants are still fully protected for the term of their lease! But for leases that expire after September 16, 2015 landlords will no longer have to offer lease renewals. That will mean certain homelessness for tens of thousands of NYC families unless Gov. Cuomo listens to the people and not the developers now!
Councilman Williams stressed that voters will remember at the polls if rent laws are not strengthened.
“The clock is ticking, so it is Governor Cuomo’s responsibility to display the leadership on this issue as he has on others that he has apparently prioritized,” Williams said. “Not strengthening our rent laws would be an unforgivable disgrace that the residents of this city would not forget.”
So, what should you should know if you live in rent-regulated housing?
- If you’re not sure if you do live in a rent-regulated unit, call the Department of Homes and Community Renewal at 718-739-6400.
- Your lease is still in effect and remains in effect through the term of the lease.
- There are still laws on the books protecting you from harassment, and the city is enforcing those laws.
- If your landlord is harassing you, withholding services, or trying to exploit any lapse in the rent regulation laws to get you to leave your apartment, you should call 311 immediately to be connected to an emergency hotline that has been set up for anyone in a rent-regulated apartment. Between the hours of 9am-8pm Monday through Friday, you’ll be able to connect to legal assistance from Legal Services NYC and the Legal Aid Society.
- If you receive court papers or are being threatened or harassed by your landlord because the rent laws have expired, you may also call the Public Advocate’s hotline at 212-669-7250, the city Comptroller’s Community Action Center at 212-669-3916, or Borough President Eric Adams’ Constituent Assistance Center at 718-802-3777.