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New York City recently implemented its far-reaching Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. That law enacted extensive amendments, all plaintiff protective, to New York’s 1969 Rent Stabilization Law (RSL). The Act imposes the RSL throughout the state. It also reverses the state’s earlier position on Luxury Decontrol for High Income Tenants. Formerly, when a tenant earned over $200,000 per year and paid a rent of at least $2,700 per month, the unit was decontrolled to allow the landlord the benefit of market rate rents. But under the new law, well-heeled tenants can continue to pay at most 15 percent of their gross rent on city housing.
The new act also sharply limits rent increases when landlords make improvements on a tenant’s premises. The older system allowed increases of up to 6 percent per annum, but the newer rules cap that figure at 2 percent, which makes it highly unlikely that a landlord can recover the costs of those improvements (assuming these are still made) over their useful life.
Finally, the new law also works a major change for the many units covered by the RSL but which are rented at below the regulatory cap. These below-cap rentals show how rents are in many areas constrained solely by powerful market forces: landlords cannot move up to the maximum rent levels when demand is not there. Nonetheless, the 2019 law treats the tenant’s current rent as a statutory base for calculating any future rental increases for that tenant. These landlords are now severely restricted in the extent by which they can raise rents going forward.