Power and Purpose

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Q: I have lived in my rent-controlled apartment in New York City for ten years and used to be paying $900 per month in rent.  The other day, the Rent Guidelines Board made an order giving the landlord a larger rent increase, percentage-wise, for my apartment than for the identical apartment next door, which was vacant until recently.  Did the Board have the power to do this?

A: As you realize, a long-term tenant, like you, is the greatest beneficiary of rent stabilization.  Under the Rent Stabilization Law, the rent can increase drastically only when there has been a vacancy.   Apartments are brought closer to market rent only as they become vacated.  Under this scheme, by design, there is a large rent gap between new tenants and long-term tenants.

Under fundamental principles of administrative law, the Board cannot make an order that is out of harmony with the Rent Stabilization Law, under which the Board has been given its powers.  I recognize your point: by raising your rent, the Board gives the appearance of having sought to mitigate the very rent disparity that the Legislature sought to create.

To promulgate this order, the Board must have been acting under section 26–510(b) of the Rent Stabilization Law: annually, the Board may establish guidelines for rent ‘adjustments’.  Like it or not, the New York Court of Appeals has held that – so long as the rent rise for your apartment reflects merely a growth in the cost of maintainance and operation – then what you call an ‘increase’ was merely an ‘adjustment’.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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