Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Harmon Case Challenges Rent Laws - Hear Speaker on Jan. 11, 2012

Our General Tenants Meeting presents:

Andrew Scherer*
former Executive Director of Legal Services NYC
 speaking on the Harmon case 
that challenges all rent laws.

Upper West Side landlord (and former federal prosecutor) James Harmon wants the U.S. Supreme Court to undo ALL of NY's rent laws. He claims these laws deprive owners of their property  - the ability to rake in as much money as the market will bear.  After all, who needs a level bargaining table for the 99%!  As the market-rate tenants in our building know, it's hard to bargain with a landlord for a reasonable rent when you don't have the right to a renewal lease as long as you pay your rent and don't cause a nuisance.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly decided different aspects of the issue (see HousingNYC.com's explanation starting at page 37) and permitted states to regulate rents,  the Court has asked those opposing Harmon  to file briefs to say why the Court should NOT take the case and consider the question once again. 

This affects all of us - so come hear Andy Scherer and ask questions
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11, 2012
 at 8 PM
In our Community Room
*Prof. Scherer, a, writer, teacher and legal consultant, wrote  the treatise, Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York  - the resource book for all lawyers representing tenants in court (for the past 16 years).

About the court and the law:

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Harmon has lost in the lowest and mid-level federal courts, and is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court can affect the entire United States and there are no more appeals from its decisions.

The U.S. Supreme Court only takes those appeals that it "certifies" from lower courts as important. (A few other cases get there by other routes irrelevant to Harmon).  So Harmon has filed a "Petition for Certiorari" - or just a "cert"  to formally ask the Court to take his case. The Court typically grants "cert" to only about 3% of private individuals who appeal.   Often, other people and groups (not parties to the case)  file "Friend of the Court" briefs on one side or the other to persuade the Court.  Harmon's case is supported by
the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, and New York's own Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbyist group.  No tenant groups have filed "Friend of the Court" ("amicus") briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court yet.

THE LAW: The U.S. Constitution states (among other things) that the government cannot take people's property without compensation.  Landlord Harmon claims that rent regulation and the Rent Guidelines Board that fixes rent increases each year are not actually "due process of law,"  and thus that the government is "TAKING" his property - the potential higher rents he'd rather be getting. 

And while all landlords already have the right under rent stabilization to kick tenants out to use their apartments for the landlord himself and his family to live in, Harmon wants the right to kick out ANY tenant to let any family member take that apartment (or perhaps, better yet, to get a higher rental income).

Please come.  Andy will talk and answer questions, and then we'll finish up this General Tenants Meeting with a few short items. 

Bring a chair and a neighbor!