Tuesday, February 3, 2009

State Assembly Passes Pro-Tenant Bills - Now Up to State Senate

On February 2, 2009, the NYS Assembly passed 10 pro-tenant bills (not including the needed Stewart-Cousins bill).

The most prominent bill is the repeal of vacancy decontrol. That decontrol has been a serious motive for landlords to try to oust tenants from rent regulated apartment.

Below are some of the bills that may affect us. The summary of most of the bills comes from the Real Rent Reform Campaign.


A 857 Barring “Unique or Peculiar” Increases for Pre-1973 Mitchell-Lamas That Enter Rent Stabilization After This Bill Becomes Law - Sponsored by Bing, Lopez V, Greene, Millman, Markey, Rosenthal, Benedetto, Wright, Camara, Espaillat, Benjamin, Pheffer, Titone, Jeffries, Maisel, Lancman, O’Donnell, Dinowitz, Kavanagh, Rivera P, Titus, Cymbrowitz, Spano, Powell

This bill will protect the thousands of households in pre-1974 buildings that leave the Mitchell-Lama program and enter into the rent stabilization system. A provision of the rent laws allowing landlords to apply for an extraordinary rent increase due to “unique or peculiar circumstances” has been misused as landlords have sought large rent increases. This bill exempts former Mitchell-Lamas from this provision, establishing the last rent charged (including surcharges) under Mitchell-Lama as the initial legal regulated rent. This bill is not retroactive although it will probably protect us or other tenants in 24 buildings with pending “unique or peculiar” applications – including the 16 buildings currently in court on the matter. We need the Stewart-Cousins bill.*


*If you're interested in getting the Stewart-Cousins bill passed, come to P.I.E. Campaign Strategy Session on Monday, February 9th at the Community Service Society, 102 E. 22nd St. (Take 2, N or Wtrain to 23rd St.)

6 PM - refreshments and networking

7 PM - workshops


A 1687 Putting post-1973 buildings leaving Section 8 into rent stabilization without “U or P” increases. - Sponsored by Lopez V, Silver, Bing, O’Donnell, Perry, Ortiz, Spano, Powell, Wright, Kavanagh [This does not affect our building, which was built before 1974.]

This bill allows post-1973 buildings in New York City and the three suburban counties of Nassau, Rockland and Westchester with project-based rental assistance under the federal Section 8 program to become subject to the NYC Rent Stabilization Law or the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. The bill further bars landlords from applying for rent increases based on unique or peculiar circumstances. The same protections are needed for post-1973 Mitchell-Lama rental buildings. The bill passed 103 to 41. (There are 109 Democrats and 44 Republicans in the State Assembly.)


A. 2005 - Repeal Vacancy Decontrol - Sponsored by Rosenthal, Silver, Brennan, Lopez V, Lentol, Wright, Diaz, Jeffries, Bing, Latimer, Camara, Brook-Krasny, Peralta, Boyland, Greene, Kellner, Lancman, Schimel, Maisel, Kavanagh, Gottfried, Dinowitz, Millman, Mayersohn, Powell, Lavine, Colton, Nolan, O’Donnell, Titus, Farrell, Ortiz, Espaillat, Benedetto, Hooper, Jacobs, Robinson, Rivera N, Zebrowski – Multi-sponsored by Benjamin, Bradley, Brodsky, Cook, Glick, Jaffee, Markey, Meng, Peoples, Perry, Pheffer, Pretlow, Rivera J, Spano, Weisenberg

This bill is the single most important step the Legislature can take to reverse the loss of our dwindling affordable rental housing stock in the downstate metropolitan region. A2005 repeals vacancy decontrol as it applies to New York City and the suburban counties of Nassau, Westchester and Rockland, for both rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments. The bill also re-regulates at least some of the units that have been decontrolled. This bill passed 91 to 52.

A.860 - High Income Decontrol Raised to $2700 Rent and $250,000 Annual Income. Sponsored by Bing, Lopez V, Glick, Peralta, Millman, Rosenthal, Kavanagh, Dinowitz, O’Donnell, Colton, Maisel, Wright, Titus, Ortiz, Powell

It is reasonable to adjust the rent and income thresholds for high income rent decontrol (often referred to inaccurately as “luxury” decontrol). We propose that in addition to the reasonable adjustments contained in this bill, an income threshold based on household size be adopted, and that elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities be exempted as promised by former Governor George Pataki. We also suggest that this provision should be repealed outright.

A. 1686 - Landlords' Vacancy Bonus Reduced from 20% to 10% Maximum - Sponsored by Lopez V, Gottfried, Rosenthal, Kavanagh, Wright, O’Donnell, Ortiz, Powell

This bill reduces the statutory vacancy bonus enacted in 1997 from a maximum of 20 percent for a two-year lease to a maximum of 10 percent, and limits collection of the bonus to once in any calendar year. This is a step in the right direction. The statutory vacancy bonus has been quite destructive. The bill should be amended to reduce the bonus to 5 percent, and to eliminate the additional rent increase on top of the bonus (six-tenths of one percent per year if it has been eight years or longer since the last vacancy increase). An alternative would be to repeal the statutory vacancy bonus entirely, and to give the power to impose a vacancy allowance to the New York City and suburban rent boards, as contained in the Rent Board Reform Act of 2008 as introduced by Senator Duane and Assembly Member Latimer. If there is to be a statutory vacancy bonus of any amount, language should then be added to state law to make it clear that the local boards do not have the power to impose additional vacancy allowances on top of the statutory vacancy bonus, as both the Westchester and Nassau ounty boards have done.

A. 1928 - MCI SUrcharges Exprie When Cost Paid. Sponsored by O’Donnell, Lopez V, Silver, Glick, Ortiz, Gottfried, Kavanagh, Rosenthal, Farrell, Perry, Pheffer, Spano, Powell, Titus

This bill makes rent increases for Major Capital Improvements a temporary surcharge, so that when the tenant has paid off the entire cost of the improvement after seven years, the surcharge expires. This is a long overdue bill, and basic justice.

Preferential Rent Correction - Sponsored by Jeffries

This bill corrects a late-night change that was inserted into the rent laws in June 2003, which allows landlords to disregard a “preferential” rent (a rent charged that is lower than the legal regulated rent) when renewing a lease under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 or the NYC Rent Stabilization Law of 1969. Prior to this change, landlords were allowed to jump back up to the legal rent upon vacancy, but were required to renew based on the lower preferential rent. Many tenants have been hit with huge rent increases as a result, forcing them to vacate and thereby allowing the landlord to collect another 20 percent statutory vacancy bonus. Some landlords falsely register a higher rent than the legal rent with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal, then wait before jumping back to the legal rent, whereupon the tenant finds herself precluded from challenging an illegal rent because of the four-year rule (this argues for legislation restoring the four-year rule to its pre-1997 status). According to DHCR, there are currently 150,000 stabilized units with preferential rents.


A 1688 Repealing the Urstadt Law- Sponsored by Lopez V, Silver, Wright, Dinowitz, Latimer, Perry, Kavanagh, Boyland, Kellner, Lancman, Millman, O’Donnell, Pheffer, Titus, Ortiz, Spano, Powell

This bill repeals the so-called Urstadt Law of 1971, named for Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s housing commissioner Charles J. Urstadt, and by doing so restores full home rule powers over rent and eviction laws to the New York City Council and Mayor. This bill is long overdue and should be enacted promptly.


A 2002 - Raises Penalties for Tenant Harassment - Sponsored by Silver, Lopez V, Jeffries, Jacobs, Kellner, Bing, Rosenthal, O’Donnell, Farrell, Wright, Rivera N

This long-overdue bill increases civil penalties for tenant harassment by landlords and for violating an order of the state housing commissioner. Too many bad landlords treat such fines as the cost of doing business.

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