By TimesLedger Staff
With the state’s residential rent laws set to expire at midnight Monday, the occupants of some 135,000 rent-regulated apartments in Queens were waiting for lawmakers in Albany to reach an agreement to extend the steady march to free market rates.
The city as a whole has about one million rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments that are covered by state statutes, but the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and state Senate, controlled by the GOP, are at odds over what should be done to protect tenants.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called the down-to-the-wire approach to the expiration deadline “outrageous,” Democratic Assembly members and Gov. Mario Cuomo want the rent laws to be strengthened so that more apartments remain under regulation and continue to be affordable housing.
At issue is the so-called vacancy decontrol provision, which allows landlords to charge market rates for a rent-stabilized apartment when the tenant moves out and the rent exceeds $2,500. Some estimate that 100,000 New York City apartments could move to the free market in the next few years if the vacancy decontrol provision is not altered. The Democrats want vacancy decontrol to be tightened to maintain a larger stock of affordable apartments. The Republicans favor extending the rent laws for eight years but with fewer protections for tenants than the Democrats are seeking.
“A straight extender of tent regulation would be a huge loss for the people of New York,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “Everyone has known about this deadline for years—timing is not a credible excuse.”
As negotiations continued in Albany Monday, de Blasio urged New Yorkers to call 311 if any landlord attempted to raise rents or evict tenants before the impasse was settled. All leases are still in effect during the hiatus. Albany was expected to extend the regulations temporarily until the Legislature resolved the differences.
Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, issued a statement telling New Yorkers that a lease or the offer of a new lease are legally binding and the rent will not increase immediately. He also said tenants whose lease expires before new laws are enacted should stay in their apartments and not give in to harassment from a landlord.
He urged renters who are harassed by a landlord or have other questions to call his Community Action Center at 212-669-3916.
When the rent laws last expired in 2011 for 48 hours, Stringer pointed out that the new regulations were retroactive, thereby protecting tenants.