Regulations governing how much landlords can charge for the city’s roughly 1 million rent stabilized apartments expired at midnight Tuesday.
Lawmakers in Albany don’t appear to be close to any deals that will strengthen rent laws even though both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have called for that.
Now that the set laws have expired, here’s what tenants in rent regulated housing need to know:
1. Sit tight.
Tenants under a current lease will retain their protections even with the expired laws. A landlord has no legal right to move you out. Even those whose leases are up for renewal have protections.
“I encourage you to stay in your apartment and not give in to pressure or harassment from your landlord,” Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote in an email. “The last time rent laws expired — for 48 hours in 2011 — the new regulations were enacted retroactively, protecting those whose leases had expired when there were no regulations.”
Cuomo and de Blasio warned landlords not to make any changes until new legislation protecting rent stabilization is passed.
Anyone trying to take advantage of expiring rent laws “will face the full brunt of the law and all legal consequences,” Cuomo said in a letter sent to landlords Sunday.
2. Call 311 if you’re being harassed.
The city has put together an emergency plan in the event of a rent laws lapse, de Blasio said Monday, urging tenants to report any harassment from “unscrupulous landlords who may try to take advantage of this situation” to 311 immediately.
“They may try to misinform them. They may try to suggest that their leases are no longer in effect. We want to make sure that those falsehoods are addressed,” de Blasio said Monday at a City Hall press conference.
There’s already been an uptick in such calls, the mayor noted.
“They are fearful. They don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think the most typical call we’re getting is ‘What is going to happen? What are my rights? What happens to my lease? Is it still going to be in effect tomorrow?’” said de Blasio.
Judith Goldiner, attorney in charge of the Civil Reform Unit at Legal Aid Society, said her organization has received scattered reports about landlords harassing tenants.
“We’ve already heard about landlords telling tenants they are going to have to get out when rent laws expire or we will send marshals to your door,” Goldiner said. “That is wrong and we are telling tenants not to leave their apartments.”
Public Advocate Letitia James has offered additional legal services (tenants can call 212-669-7250) as has Stringer (tenants can call 212-669-3916).
3. Don’t bank on the rent laws changing that much.
If the rent laws stay the same, the city estimates that 100,000 apartments might exit the system in the coming months anyway.
Because of this, de Blasio has called not only for an extension of the laws but a strengthening to end things such as vacancy decontrol, which allows landlords to deregulate a vacant apartment when the rent reaches $2,500 per month.
The mayor has also called for an end to allowing landlords to charge tenants for major capital improvements in perpetuity and instead wants to see improvement surcharges made temporary, spread out over 7 to 10 years, and then allowing the rent to reset after that.
“As I’ve said, over the last couple of decades we’ve lost several hundred thousand units of affordable housing. Units that went out of rent regulation because the rent laws were not strong enough,” said de Blasio.
“This city is getting less and less affordable. So, it’s clear we need to strengthen laws because we need New York City to be a place for everyone, as it has been for generations upon generations,” added the mayor who urged New Yorkers to lobby their representatives in Albany for changes to the rent laws.
De Blasio also called on Cuomo to do more to move the legislation forward.
“The governor’s taken the right position here, and I thank him for that. But we need his leadership. The proof’s in the pudding here. We need him to break through this stalemate, and fix this situation,” de Blasio said.
But sources in Albany say it’s unlikely that the rent laws will be strengthened.
“I think it’s going to be a straight extender,” said the Albany source. “We can’t make up enough ground. There is no way.”
Via DNAInfo | Lead image: DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton and DNAinfo/Jeff Mays