A CALL FOR STRONGER RENT
A Letter sent by 63 Organizations to New York State's Housing Agency
A Letter sent by 63 Organizations to New York State's Housing Agency
Office of Rent Administration
NYS Housing and Community Renewal
92‐31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, NY 11433
RE: Recommendations for Revising the Rent Stabilization Code, the Tenant Protection Regulations, and the Rent Control Regulations.
We are tenant organizing and legal services organizations who represent the tenant community in New York City and the three suburban counties.
Enclosed [below] is our response to Deputy Commissioner Woody Pascal’s request seeking input on new amendments to New York Stateʹs Rent Stabilization Code and Rent Control Regulations. We have attached recommendations that were first made to New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal last year. We have also attached draft regulatory language that we submitted to DHCR at the request of Commissioner Daryl Towns.
The primary purpose of rent regulation in New York City and the three suburban counties has been to eliminate abnormal rents in an overheated market. Indeed, the Rent Stabilization Law’s stated goal is to protect “public health, safety, and welfare…and to prevent exactions of unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive rents and rental agreements.”
The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal has administered and enforced rent regulation through the Rent Stabilization Code and the Rent Control Regulations. However, in the last decade there has been an unprecedented rise in rents in New York City and the three suburban counties. This rise has been exacerbated by an enforcement system that relies on tenants to initiate complaints and a Code and Regulations that have been amended to place limitations on tenants’ capacities to challenge illegal rents. The current system for rent increases and destabilizations during vacancy is essentially an “honor system” for landlords.
We, thus, welcome the opportunity to recommend changes that would address the weaknesses in the current system. We respectfully suggest that DHCR make a historic shift in regulatory policy and practice to prevent the further loss of affordable housing and the displacement of low‐ and moderate‐income people from their homes and communities. Beginning a decade ago under a prior Administration, weak regulation and lax enforcement made it possible for unscrupulous landlords to unlawfully deregulate tens of thousands of rent stabilized units, and inflate rents in stabilized apartments to a level beyond the reach of many working families.
We therefore urge the current Administration to immediately implement the regulatory amendments we have proposed to strengthen the Code and the Regulations.
Further, while we believe that the new Tenant Protection Unit can operate without new enabling regulations, we would not oppose such amendments to the Code and Regulations if the agency decides to propose such changes.
As always, we are available to further discuss these matters, but immediate action is needed to remedy continuing displacement and the loss of affordable housing units. Thank you for your consideration of our recommendations.
Sincerely, (click on "read more" below for the 63 tenant organization signers)
SIGNERS - followed by the specific recommendations
1744 Clay Avenue Tenants Association
2022, a Cooperators Organization from Penn South
Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (a coalition of 98 neighborhood housing developers and community organizations)
Asian Americans for Equality
Association of Tenants of Lincoln Towers
Audubon Partnership for Economic Development
Boulevard Towers Tenant Association
Bridge Street Development Corporation
Brighton Neighborhood Association
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
CASANew Settlement Apartments
Central Park Gardens Tenantsʹ Association
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Chelsea Coalition on Housing
Community Free Democrats
Community Voices Heard
Cooper Square Committee
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
Delano Village Tenants Association
Fifth Avenue Committee
Flatbush Development Corporation
Flatbush Tenant Coalition at FDC
Gang of Six
GoddardRiverside SRO Law Project
GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side)
Hotel Windermere Tenants Alliance
Housing Conservation Coordinators
Housing Court Answers
Independence Plaza North Tenants Association
Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing
Janel Towers Tenant Association
The Legal Aid Society
Legal Services NYC
Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants
London Terrace Tenants’ Association
Make the Road New York
Met Council on Housing
MBD Community Housing Corporation
MinKwon Center for Community Action
Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center
MitchellLama Residents Coalition
Mount Vernon United Tenants
Mutual Housing Association of New York
Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica
Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush
Neighborhood Housing Services of Staten Island
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
New York Communities for Change
New York State Tenants & Neighbors
Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation
Pratt Area Community Council
Queens Community House
The Real Rent Reform Campaign (a coalition of over 60
Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association
Riverton Tenants Association
Southside United HDFC (Los Sures)
St. Nicks Alliance
Tower West Tenants Association
United Neighbors Organization
Urban Justice Center
West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center, Inc.
West Side Neighborhood Alliance
West Village Houses Rentersʹ Union
Westgate Tenants Association @ Stonehenge Village
Woodside on the Move
Strengthened HCR Enforcement and OversightWe call on NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to make a historic shift in regulatory policy and practice to prevent the further loss of affordable housing and the displacement of low and moderate income people from their homes and communities. Lax regulation and weak enforcement have made it possible for unscrupulous landlords to unlawfully deregulate tens of thousands of rent stabilized units, and inflate rents in stabilized apartments to a level beyond the reach of many working families.
HCR = NYS Homes & Community Renewal - the NYS housing agency
DHCR = Division of Housing & Community Renewal, a section of NYS HCR governing rent regulation
RSL = Rent Stabilization Law (the statute)
Code = Rent Stabilization Code (the regulations enacted and enforced by DHCR)
HPD = NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
IAI = Individual Apartment Improvement
MCI= Major Capital Improvement
NYSERDA = New York State Energy & Research Development Agency
1. Restrict Rent Increases Based on Vacancy Improvements.
It has become apparent that the imposition of unwarranted and fraudulent rent increases
based on alleged “improvements” in vacant apartments is the greatest single factor
driving the rapid inflation of rents and the single greatest threat to the affordability that
the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) was enacted to preserve. HCR should adopt new
Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) rules pursuant to the recent RSL amendments:
- HCR should require its approval for any IAI rent increase in a vacant apartment that raises the legal regulated rent by more than 20 percent.
- HCR should disallow increases for cosmetic improvements, or for correction of prior neglect in maintenance, and allow increases only for substantial improvements in the quality of apartment facilities and services.
- HCR should discourage fraud by limiting IAIs to the reasonable, rather than the actual cost of the improvement, and requiring use of licensed contractors with no connection to the owner or managing agent.
- HCR should establish cost guidelines for the various individual apartment improvements for which owners are authorized to increase rents, and reject any application with costs higher than the established guidelines.
- HCR should condition IAI increases upon submission of detailed descriptions and thorough documentation of vacancy improvements in connection with registrations and vacancy lease riders.
2. Improve Oversight of MCI Increases
- HCR should make MCIs temporary surcharges rather than permanent increases.
- HCR should deny MCI applications for buildings with more than 2 hazardous or immediately hazardous violations per unit and in buildings where the owner and/or management company has engaged in tenant harassment.
- HCR should disallow increases for work that can be funded through government agencies such as HPD and NYSERDA.
- Currently, if an owner is receiving a J-51 tax abatement for the same work as an MCI, the rent increase is decreased by 50% of the tax benefit, for the life of the benefit. HCR should not allow any increases, even by a reduced percentage, that duplicate J-51 and other tax benefits.
- HCR should disallow MCIs where energy savings pay them back within a period of time.
- HCR should facilitate tenant participation in the MCI approval or rejection process, and provide easy access to all relevant documents.
- In buildings leaving Mitchell-Lama, an escrow account should be automatically created to pay for repairs and replacements that would otherwise be MCIs over the 5 years after the building has entered rent stabilization. Furthermore, any work mandated as a precondition to the building leaving Mitchell-Lama should not qualify for an MCI.
- If, over the course of two years, MCI’s cumulatively result in more than a 10% increase in a building’s rent roll, HRC should automatically inspect all work.
3. Strengthen Enforcement of Registration Requirements
- HCR should amend the RSC to provide that the base date rent will be deemed to be the rent listed in the most recent prior registration.
- HCR should require full documentation to support amended registrations, and insure notice to the tenant of such amendments. HCR should permit challenges to late and amended registrations filed after the base date.
- HCR should take immediate action to re-regulate unlawfully deregulated apartments and in J-51 buildings impacted by the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer decision. HCR should additionally ensure that tenants in those unlawfully deregulated units have rents that are what they should have been had the unit not been illegally deregulated.
- HCR should take immediate action to re-regulate and protect current and future tenants in
- buildings that have been used as illegal hotels.
4. Protect the Rights of Remaining Family Members
- HCR should revise the RSC to supersede recent court decisions that have denied legitimate claims by tenants’ family members, specifically permitting succession based on co-occupancy prior to the tenant of record’s physical vacatur of the apartment, regardless of whether the tenant formally surrendered his tenancy rights to the landlord.
5. Improve Protections for Rent Controlled Tenants
- HCR should publish and make transparent the factors used in determining the MBR adjustment for rent controlled tenants.
- When landlords certify that they will correct a violation within thirty days, HCR should verify that the work has actually been completed in a safe and timely manner before granting an MBR rent adjustment. HCR should allow rent controlled tenants to challenge their MBR rent adjustments based on landlords’ failure to perform essential services.
- HCR should provide tenants with all the information necessary to challenge their landlords’ claims that they have expended or incurred 90% of Operations and Maintenance expenses over the past year. Under the agency’s current process, these challenges are allowed, but tenants are provided with no information or resources to make such a claim.
BELOW ARE SPECIFIC CHANGES TO EXISTING REGULATIONS PROPOSED BY LEGAL AID in a DECEMBER 2011 LETTER TO DHCR and ATTACHED TO THE EMAILED LETTER ABOVE. The items in yellow are additions to existing regulation text. Deletions to existing text show the words "
like this." This website has added some headings in RED to help navigate what each section is about.
TENANTS GET NOTICES OF RIGHTS
Section 2522.5 Lease agreements
Section 2522.5 Lease agreements
rider and notice of rights.
(1) For housing accommodations subject to this Code, an owner shall furnish to each tenant signing a vacancy or renewal lease, a rider in a form promulgated or approved by the DHCR, in larger type than the lease, describing the rights and duties of owners and tenants as provided for under the RSL. Such rider shall conform to the "plain English" requirements of section 5-702 of the General Obligations Law, shall also be available in Spanish, and shall be attached as an addendum to the lease. Upon the face of each lease, in bold print, shall appear the following: "ATTACHED RIDER SETS FORTH RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF TENANTS AND LANDLORDS UNDER THE RENT STABILIZATION LAW." ("LOS DERECHOS Y RESPONSABILIDADES DE INQUILINOS Y CASEROS ESTAN DISPONIBLE EN ESPAÑOL").
(ii) For renewal leases, such rider shall be attached to the form sent to the tenant pursuant to section 2523.5 of this Title.
(2) For housing accommodations in hotels, each owner shall furnish to each person, at the time of registration, a Notice of Rights in a form promulgated or approved by the DHCR, describing the rights and duties of hotel owners, occupants and tenants as provided for under the RSL and this Code and a hotel occupant's right to become a permanent tenant at a legal regulated rent by requesting a lease for a term of at least six months at any time during his or her occupancy. Such notice, which shall conform to the "plain English" requirements of Section 5-702 of the General Obligations Law, shall also be available in Spanish. Such notice shall be provided to each hotel occupant in residence on the effective date of this Code no later than 90 days from such effective date. An owner who violates the RSL and this Code by failing to furnish this Notice of Rights and/or by engaging in any conduct which compels a person to rent as a hotel occupant, prevents a hotel occupant from becoming a permanent tenant, or results in a hotel occupant vacating a housing accommodation, shall be subject to a loss of a guidelines adjustment pursuant to paragraph (3) of this subdivision as well as penalties pursuant to section 2526.2(b) and (c)(1) of this Title, and may be subject to a penalty pursuant to section 2526.2(c)(2) of this Title, in an amount no less than $1,000.
(3) Upon complaint by the tenant, permanent tenant or hotel occupant that he or she was not furnished with a copy of the lease rider pursuant to paragraph (1) or the notice pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subdivision, the DHCR shall order the owner to furnish the rider or notice. In addition to such other penalties provided for pursuant to section 2526.2 of this Title, >
WHAT DATE COUNTS FOR TENANT VACATING APARTMENT
(f) Vacancy prior to expiration of lease term.
(ii) be computed upon the legal regulated rent charged and paid on the last day of the immediately preceding guidelines year; and
(iii) may include such other rent increases as are authorized pursuant to the RSL or this Code.
IMPROVEMENTS THAT TENANTS PAY FOR
Section 2522.4. Adjustment of legal regulated rent
Section 2522.4. Adjustment of legal regulated rent
INDIVIDUAL APARTMENT IMPROVEMENTS
(a) Increased space and services, new equipment, new furniture or furnishings; major capital improvements; other adjustments.
(ii) An owner shall not be entitled to any increases for cosmetic improvements, for work necessary for correction of prior neglect in maintenance, or for substitution of fixtures and facilities with replacements of comparable quality, but only for substantial improvements in the quality of apartment facilities and services above the level furnished to the preceding tenant. All work qualifying for an increase under this section must be performed by licensed contractors. Work will not qualify for an increase under this section if it is performed by supers, employees, family members or entities with identity of interest with the owner and/or management company;
(iii) An owner who charges an increase pursuant to paragraph (1)(a) for new equipment or improvements installed or made during a vacancy period that exceeds 20 percent of the rent charged to the prior tenant shall within 30 days of signing a lease with the new tenant that incorporates said increase, file with DHCR all documents necessary to substantiate the nature and cost of such improvements or new equipment, and serve a copy of such documents on the tenant in occupancy together with a notice informing the tenant that she may submit objections to DHCR with respect to the rent increase. The owner shall also include a detailed description of the nature and cost of such improvements in the first registration reflection such increase;
(iv) Pursuant to its authority under sections 26-516(b) and 26-516(b) [sic] of the Rent Stabilization Law, and sections 2522.6 and 2527.2 of this Code. DHCR will review all documents submitted pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, and issue a determination of the legal regulated rent for the dwelling unit.
MAJOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS
(2) An owner may file an application to increase the legal regulated rents of the building or building complex on forms prescribed by the DHCR, on one or more of the following grounds:
(b) is for the operation, preservation and maintenance of the structure;
(c) is an improvement to the building or to the building complex which inures directly or indirectly to the benefit of all tenants, and which includes the same work performed in all similar components of the building or building complex, unless the owner can satisfactorily demonstrate to the DHCR that certain of such similar components did not require improvement; and
(d) the item being replaced meets the requirements set forth on the following useful life schedule, except with DHCR approval of a waiver, as set forth in clause (e) of this subparagraph.
(e) . . . . .
(ii) The item or equipment needs to be replaced because such item or equipment is beyond repair, or spare parts are no longer available, or required repairs would cost more than 75 percent of the cost of the total replacement of the item or equipment. Certification by a duly licensed engineer or architect, where there is no common ownership or other financial interest with the owner, shall be considered substantial proof of such condition(s). The owner
(4) The increase in the monthly stabilization rent for the affected housing accommodations when authorized pursuant to paragraph (1) of the subdivision shall be 1/40th of the
(10) The DHCR shall not grant an application pursuant to this subdivision (a) for an increase for any improvement made pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subdivision to the extent that
(11) The DHCR shall deny applications for improvements to effectuate electrical conversions.
(12) The DHCR shall deny applications for improvements for which the owner is receiving benefits pursuant to Section 11-243 or Section 11-244.
(13) An owner who is entitled to a rent increase based upon the installation of new equipment, or new furniture or furnishings pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subdivision shall not be entitled to a further rent increase based upon the installation of similar equipment, or new furniture or furnishings within the useful life of such new equipment, or new furniture or furnishings.
(14) Rent adjustments pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subdivision and subdivisions (b) and (c) of this section shall be allocated as follows: The DHCR shall determine the dollar amount of the monthly rent adjustment. Such dollar amount shall be divided by the total number of rooms in the building. The amount so derived shall then be added to the rent chargeable to each housing accommodation in accordance with the number of rooms in such housing accommodation.
(15) The DHCR shall not grant an owner's application for a rental adjustment pursuant to subsection (a)(2) or approve the collection of a rent increase pursuant to subsection (a)(1)(iv) in whole or in part, if it is determined by the DHCR prior to the
Section 2520.6 Definitions
(a) Housing accommodation.
(e) Legal regulated rent. The lesser of (1) the rent charged on the base date set forth in subdivision (f) of this section, or (ii) the amount set forth in the registration filed for the period including the base date; or (iii) if no registration has been filed for the period covering the base date, the amount set forth in the most recent prior registration, plus any subsequent lawful increases and adjustments.
(f) Base date. For the purpose of proceedings pursuant to sections 2522.3 and 2526.1 of this Title, base date shall mean the date which is the most recent of :
(2) the date on which the housing accommodation firs became subject to the RSL; or
(3) April 1, 1984, for complaints filed on or before March 31, 1988 for housing accommodations for which initial registrations were required to be filed by June 30, 1984, and for which a timely challenge was not filed.
(u) Primary residence. Although no single factor shall be solely determinative, evidence which may be considered in determining whether a housing accommodation subject to this Code is occupied as a primary residence shall include, without limitation, such factors as listed below:
(2) use by an occupant of an address other than such housing accommodation as a voting address;
(3) occupancy of the housing accommodation for an aggregate of less than 183 days in the most recent calendar year, except for temporary periods of relocation pursuant to section 2523.5(b)(2) of this Title; and
(4) subletting of the housing accommodation.
(v) Permanent vacatur date. The date of vacatur shall be determined to be the first date that the tenant has established a primary residence in another housing accommodation. Temporary visits to the stabilized residence will not effect the permanent vacatur date. Signing a renewal lease for the stabilized accommodation shall not be used as evidence of the permanent vacatur date.
Section 2523.5. Notice for renewal of lease and renewal procedure
(a) On a form prescribed or a facsimile of such a form approved by the DHCR, dated by the owner, every owner, other than an owner of hotel accommodations, shall notify the tenant named in the expiring lease not more than 150 days and not less than 90 days prior to the end of the tenant's lease term, by mail or personal delivery, of the expiration of the lease term, and offer to renew the lease or rental agreement at the legal regulated rent permitted for such renewal lease and otherwise on the same terms and conditions as the expiring lease. The owner shall give such tenant a period of 60 days from the date of the service of such notice to accept the offer and renew such lease. the tenant's acceptance of such offer shall be entered on the designated part of the prescribed form, or facsimile thereof, and returned to the owner by mail or personal delivery. Pursuant to the provisions of section 2522.5(b)(1) of this Title, the owner shall furnish to such tenant a copy of the fully executed renewal lease form bearing the signatures of the owner and tenant within 30 days of the owner's receipt of the renewal lease form signed by the tenant. Upon execution by the owner and delivery to the tenant, such form shall constitute a binding renewal lease. Upon failure of the owner to deliver a copy of the fully executed renewal lease form to the tenant within 30 days from the owner's receipt of such form signed by the tenant, such tenant shall not be deprived of any of his or her rights under the RSL and this Code and the owner shall be barred from commencing any action or proceeding against the tenant based upon nonrenewal of lease, pursuant to section 2524.3(f) of this Title. In the event that such notice is given to the tenant after the expiration of the lease, the provisions of subdivision (c) of this section shall govern.
(1) Unless otherwise prohibited by occupancy restrictions based upon income limitations pursuant to federal, state, or local law, regulations or other requirements of governmental agencies, if an offer is made to the tenant pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (a) of this section and such tenant has permanently vacated the housing accommodation, any member of such tenant's family, as defined in section 2520.6(o) of this Title, who has resided with the tenant in the housing accommodation as a primary residence for a period of no less than two years, or where such person is a "senior citizen," or a "disabled person" as defined in paragraph (4) of this subdivision, for a period of no less than one year, immediately prior to the permanent
vacating of the housing accommodation by the
tenant vacatur date, as
defined in section 2520.6(v), or
from the inception of the tenancy or commencement of the relationship, if for
less than such periods, shall be entitled to be named as a tenant on the
TENANT COMPLAINTS & LANDLORD PENALTIES
Section 2526.1. Determination of legal regulated rents; penalties; fines; assessment of costs; attorney's fees; rent credits
(1) Any owner who is found by the DHCR, after a reasonable opportunity to be heard, to have collected any rent or other consideration in excess of the legal regulated rent shall be ordered to pay to the tenant a penalty equal to three times the amount of such excess, except as provided under subdivision (f) of this section. In no event shall such treble damage penalty be assessed against an owner based solely upon the owner's failure to file any timely or proper rent registration statement. If the owner establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the overcharge was not willful, the DHCR shall establish the penalty as the amount of the overcharge plus interest, which interest shall accrue form the date of the first overcharge on or after the base date, at the rate of interest payable on a judgment pursuant to section 5004 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, and the order shall direct such a payment to be made to the tenant.
(2) A complaint pursuant to this section must be filed with the DHCR within four years of the first overcharge alleged, and no
(ii) the rental history of the housing accommodation prior to the four-year period preceding the filing of a complaint pursuant to this section, and sections 2522.3 of this Title, shall not be examined except in cases involving fraud, or as authorized in subsection (3) of this section, or in section 2528.4.
(ii) Where the rent charged on the base date cannot be established, the rent shall be determined by the DHCR in accordance with section 2522.6 of this Title.
(iii) Where a housing accommodation is vacant or temporarily exempt from regulation pursuant to section 2520.11 of this Title on the base date, the legal regulated rent shall be deemed to be the amount set forth in the last lawful registration prior to the base date, plus any subsequent lawful increases and adjustments,, or in the absence of such a lawful registration, an amount determined in accordance with the default formula
Section 2528.3. Annual registration requirements
In such manner and at such time as shall be determined by the DHCR pursuant to section 2527.11 of this Title:
(a) An annual registration shall be filed containing the current rent for each housing accommodation not otherwise exempt, a certification of services, and such other information as may be required by the DHCR pursuant to the RSL.
(b) Upon filing an annual registration, the owner shall provide each tenant then in occupancy with a copy of that portion of such annual registration applicable to the tenant's housing accommodation.
(c) An owner who seeks to amend a registration previously filed with DHCR must attach to the registration documents sufficient to establish the rental amount sent forth in the amended registration and to explain the reason for the amendment. A copy of the amended registration with supporting documents shall be provided to the tenant in occupancy, together with a notice explaining the tenant's right to object to the amendments, and proof of service shall be filed with DHCR.
Section 2528.4. Penalty for failure to register
(a) The failure to properly and timely comply
(b) The failure to pay any administrative fees imposed by the RSL shall constitute a charge due and owing the City of New York, and no penalty for such failure to pay shall be imposed pursuant to this code.