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N.Y. Lawmakers Agree on Broad Tenant Protections in Rent Law

Keshia Clukey and Oshrat Carmiel
N.Y. Lawmakers Agree on Broad Tenant Protections in Rent Law

(Bloomberg) -- New York State Senate and Assembly leaders reached an agreement on a package of bills that would be the biggest rewrite of rent regulations in decades, extending protections for tenants, limiting landlords’ ability to raise rents or remove units from regulation, and making the rules permanent.

“These reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a joint statement. “For too long, power has been tilted in favor of landlords and these measures finally restore equity and extend protections to tenants across the state. These reforms will pass both legislative houses and we are hopeful that the governor will sign them into law. It is the right thing to do.”

The legislation repeals the provisions that allow removal of units from rent stabilization when the rent crosses a high threshold and the unit becomes vacant or the tenant’s income is $200,000 or higher in the preceding two years. It also eliminates the “vacancy bonus” provision that allows a property owner to raise rents as much as 20% each time a unit becomes vacant.

Small Victory

While the package was thought to be a major blow to landlords, they did achieve a small victory, still being allowed to get rent increase for some improvements. It caps the improvement spending at $15,000 over a 15-year period and allows owners to make up to three increases during that time. The increases are temporary for 30 years rather than permanent, and violations must be addressed before they can collect the increase.

The lower house proposed nine bills that would favor renters by eliminating most of the tools landlords of rent-regulated units can use to raise their rents. Though both houses and the governorship are controlled by Democrats, those bills probably wouldn’t have passed in the Senate as proposed, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Tenant advocates say the changes are needed to protect the shrinking supply of affordable housing, while building owners warn lawmakers may make the problem worse by discouraging investment in regulated units. More than half of rental apartments in New York City are covered by some kind of rent regulation.

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“The best bill they can pass, I will sign,” Cuomo said at a news conference earlier on Tuesday. “If they don’t introduce the bill tomorrow, then the law will expire on Saturday. And if you want to hear an explosion in this state, you let the rent control laws expire. So literally, they have until tomorrow.”

Once the legislation is introduced, a vote can be held after three days.

(Adds details on legislation throughout.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Keshia Clukey in Arlington at kclukey@bloomberg.net;Oshrat Carmiel in New York at ocarmiel1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Urban at robprag@bloomberg.net, Josh Friedman

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