Legislative Package Aims to Strengthen Rent Rules

Propose New Protections For Tenants

Building on last year’s strengthening of the state’s rent laws for the first time in nearly two decades, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez announced a package of bills to further expand tenant protections that ensure everyone has access to decent and affordable housing.

They also called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to swiftly enact rules and regulations as required by last year’s rent agreement to provide tenants with vital protections.

“While we were able to make some important gains last year led by Assembly Democrats, the facts are that we still are faced with an affordable housing crisis in New York,” said Silver. “The package we are announcing today will help ensure that New Yorkers have a strong supply of rent-regulated housing for generations to come. We also intend to continue our push for the swift establishment of rules and regulations mandated by last year’s historic rent agreement to give our tenants the utmost protections.”

“Affordable housing is the essential foundation for all New Yorkers. In the Assembly, we have taken critical steps to protect the rights of tenants and homeowners, ensuring that they can remain in their homes and communities by providing rent protections and limiting owners abilities to excessively raise rents,” said Lopez. “These measures will enhance rent protections and preserve quality affordable housing for seniors and working families.”

The bills in the package will help ensure the economic security of more than one million households and the stability of neighborhoods throughout New York. They include:

A.1364-A (sponsored by Hakeem Jeffries)-Disallows the practice of increasing preferential rent to the legally allowed rate when the lease is renewed; it would allow such increases only upon vacancy. The rent may not be increased, however, if the vacancy is caused by the landlord’s failure to maintain a habitable residence. Some landlords attract tenants with a low preferential rent and then increase the price beyond the tenant’s means, forcing them out and allowing the landlord to push units out of rent regulation.

A.1892-A (Linda Rosenthal)- Requires DHCR to use the same formula in determining rent increases for rent-controlled apartments that the Rent Guidelines Board uses to determine rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments. Many rent controlled tenants face a regular 7.5 percent increase to their rent every year. An increase of this amount is consistently higher than those experienced by rent stabilized tenants and tenants in market rate units.

A.2459-A (Daniel O’Donnell)- Requires rent surcharges authorized for major capital improvements to cease when the cost of the improvement has been recovered. Current law grants landlords permanent rent increases for making major capital improvements to their buildings that are necessary to keep them habitable.

A.2593-A (Lopez)-Reduces the amount of rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent of the rent. High vacancy increases encourage landlords to strive for higher turnover in their rental units.

A.2750-A (J. Gary Pretlow)- Requires buildings that are removed by their landlords from the Mitchell- Lama program to become rent-stabilized, even if constructed after 1974, which provides continuing rent and eviction protection to the tenants in the former Mitchell-Lama buildings. The bill also would prohibit an owner from applying to DHCR for a rent adjustment based on the presence of unique or peculiar circumstances. This bill would ensure that affordable housing created through the Mitchell-Lama program continues to remain affordable.

A.2994 (Lopez)-Extends eviction and rent protection to those tenants living in former federal project-based section 8 buildings, even if the building had been constructed prior to 1974. It would ensure that affordable housing subsidized through the Section 8 program continues to remain affordable.

A.3033 (Lopez)-Limits a building owner’s ability to recover a rent-regulated apartment for personal use. Some landlords have used this provision in order to displace many rent-regulated tenants, even when the landlord or the landlord’s family did not have an immediate need for the apartment.

A.6394-B (Brian Kavanagh)- Requires City Council confirmation of the Mayor’s appointees to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. It also would allow qualified individuals from other related fields to serve on the rent guidelines board.

Silver and Lopez said the bills in the package were reported out of the Housing Committee last Wednesday, Apr. 18, and Assembly action on the entire package is expected later this session.

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