Thursday, April 12, 2007

NYC May Force Landlords to Pay for Renovations

I'm all for forcing landlords, the people holding virtually all the cards in the insane NYC rental market, to pay for renovations that ensure the safety of their buildings. From a NYTimes article:

New York City wants to strengthen its hand against recalcitrant landlords by giving itself broad new powers to overhaul entire building systems — like heating, electrical or plumbing — in long-troubled properties, and to force landlords to pay for the work.
That's great as long as owners don't use the renovations as a chance to skip out of rent stabilization. The following paragraphs are a good summary of the way NYC landlords move apartments off rent stabilization:

“If a tenant abandons an apartment because it’s not habitable, then that unit is at risk of coming off the rolls of regulated and affordable units,” said Ray Brescia, associate director of the Urban Justice Center, a legal-services organization that supports the plan, “because the landlord can make the repairs that it’s been neglecting, then jack up the rent over the regulated amount.”

Under the city’s rent rules, the landlord of a rent-stabilized apartment can raise the rent 20 percent after it is vacated and can also add 2.5 percent of the cost of any improvements or renovations to the monthly rent. If a vacant apartment’s rent hits $2,000, it falls out of the regulation system and the rent can rise to the market rate.

The legislation needs to ensure that, once the city has done major work and billed the landlord, the landlord can not pass the costs of repairs onto tenants by increasing rents. There is no reason why tenants should have to pay for a landlord's intentional negligence.

Surprisingly, one association that represents owners isn't worried about the proposed legislation:

“As an owners’ organization, we’ve always sort of been tainted by bad landlords, which probably represent 1 percent[yeah right] of all building owners in the city,” said Frank P. Ricci, the association’s director of government affairs.

Of the proposed bill, he said, “We think it’s reasonable in that it’s really going to target owners who are irresponsible.”