There are nearly a million rent-regulated apartments across NYC. Their tenants deserve protection.
But while some of nine rent-law bills now being considered by state lawmakers would help strengthen regulations, other bills deserve more scrutiny.
First, the good stuff in the legislation. To help the constant stream of NYC residents who need reasonably priced rentals and to stabilize the rent-regulated system, it makes sense to end vacancy decontrol, which allows rent-stabilized apartments to revert to market rates if the maximum rent is reached and a tenant breaks the lease. The same goes for ending the so-called “vacancy bonus” and the preferential rent loophole, which permit rent hikes in between tenants or with a lease renewal. Two other bills would help tenants file complaints, and bring rent hikes in older, rent-controlled units more in line with those in rent-stabilized units.
Then there’s a pair of bills that would eliminate landlords’ ability to pass on renovation costs to their tenants. Legislators should consider reforming and tightening those regulations, rather than repealing them, to avoid the legitimate concern that some landlords might choose not to improve their apartments if they can’t pass on costs.
The final two bills are more problematic. While they could help some communities, they’d hurt others. The bill that’s generating the most concern is the so-called “good cause” eviction bill. It would prevent evictions except in specific circumstances. It also would require landlords to limit rent increases to 1.5 times the rate of inflation. A bigger increase would be considered “unconscionable,” and a tenant could refuse to pay increases and stay in an apartment. Maybe that works in NYC if the process is abused. But in the suburbs, particularly on Long Island, the bill could mean developers would stop building reasonably priced rental housing. That’s unacceptable. Nassau and Suffolk counties should be exempted from its provisions.
It might seem easy for lawmakers to give the entire package of bills a thumbs-up. But when it comes to rent laws, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.