Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rent Justice Coalition Sues to Defend Rent Freeze

Rent Justice Coalition Files Lawsuit to Defend Rent Freeze

Lawsuit Against Rent Stabilization Association After Group Sues Board Over Rent Freeze

Rent Guidelines Board Voted for Second Year of Historic Rent Freeze on NYC’s Stabilized Units

New York, NY—Tenants, housing advocates and supporters convened today to file an intervention at the New York County Courthouse against the landlord group, Rent Stabilization Association over their lawsuit looking to cancel the rent freeze on stabilized apartment units. Attorneys from Urban Justice Center, Goddard and Legal Aid Society joined the Rent Justice Coalition to hold a press conference ahead of the filing.
On June 27, 2016 the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) made a historic decision to extend the already historic rent freeze for another year. Last year, the RGB passed a proposal of a one-year rent freeze for rent-stabilized tenants: in a 7-2 vote from the 9 member board. It was the first time the RGB passed a rent freeze in the board’s 46 year history.

In response, the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), which represents about 25,000 city landlords, filed a lawsuit to cancel the rent freeze, claiming the RGB inappropriately considered tenant affordability in issuing its rent order. The RSA asserts that the RGB may only look at the economic factors affecting landlords, despite Rent Stabilization Law’s mandate that the RGB consider data regarding the cost of living and any other relevant information.

In addition to potentially raising rents for over a million rent stabilized tenants whose leases expire this year, the lawsuit could establish legal precedent prohibiting the RGB from considering the impact of rent increases on tenants when it sets the rent in future years.

"Until building owners open their books, the need for rent increases is questionable. I proud to stand with the Rent Justice Coalition as a party to this lawsuit," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“We cannot support an attack that seeks to raise rents for over a million New Yorkers,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “During a time when the cost of living is at an all-time high, tenants deserve every bit of respite they can get. Residents are frequently subject to harassment and intimidation, and few have the resources to defend their rights in court.”

“Keeping rents low for working families has given them the opportunity to enter the middle class while creating vibrant communities throughout the City” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “While the RSA claims their members cannot afford this freeze, for the last 10 years expenses outpaced utility costs for their properties, and in 2014, their income increased by 3.5 percent. At the same time, most of their tenants contributed more than a third of their income to pay their rent. The RSA’s lawsuit is fundamentally flawed and I am pleased to be working with my colleagues to stand up for these residents.”  

“Landlords claim they cannot meet expenses year after year.  They provide no proof of this.  Meanwhile, rents increase much more often than do people's incomes.  When I was young, we were told that rent should come to approximately 30% of a person's income.  The percentage most folks now have to pay is usually 50% or more.  Even though I have had rent stabilization for over 30 years, my rent is around 45% of my income and I have a Master's Degree.  Where is the protection of affordable housing, if the housing is no longer affordable to many city residents?” said Maury Sherman, impacted tenant from Manhattan.

"Any serious consideration given to reversing to the decision made by RGB of  %0 for one year lease renewal, is a serious disregard to the time and energy put forth by the large public that attended and spoke out during the meetings, which saw little if any attendance from the larger landlords of NYC.  The decision took into account all necessary and acceptable numbers and issues that affect both tenants and landlords.  This decision made by the RGB is sure to help many New Yorkers keep up in this lackluster economy; allowing them keep providing for their families necessities like food and medicine while at the same time keeping the roof over their heads without sacrificing every day essentials," said Jose Genao, impacted tenant from Elmhurst NY.

"By foisting unnecessary MCI's on us out landlord has demonstrated a frightening desire to raise our all our rents as much as he can get away with. The RGB has recognized that landlord business costs have decreased significantly over the past two years and so a rent increase is not justified," said George Sotiroff, impacted tenant from The Bronx.

"Mi sueldo no sube todos los aƱos,mi renta esta muy alta como madre soltera, y un incremento de renta significa menos dinero para darle de comer a mi hijo" ("My wage doesn't increase every year, my rent is too high as a single mother and a higher rent means less money to feed my son"), said Martina Rivera, impacted tenant from The Bronx.

“My wife and I are in full support of the Rent Justice Coalition and the work they are doing to protect and defend the rights of over 1 million rent stabilized people in NYC. This case is so important to protect the independence and decision making process of the RGB board," said Micheal Castaldo, impacted tenant from Manhattan.

RJC – the Rent Justice Coalition – is a group of legal services, organizing, advocacy groups, and tenants that join together to push the RGB to use data and reason to pass more equitable, pro-tenant rent adjustments.  While the rent freeze on one-year rents last year was historic, data shows that landlords have been overcompensated by high rent increases during the Bloomberg years.  With the high amount of rent burden on New York’s most vulnerable tenants and serious wage stagnation, the coalition is calling for a rent rollback.


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