SCOTUS rejects challenges to NY’s rent-stabilization rules

The Gothamist, David Brand, February 26, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to hear a pair of challenges to New York’s rent stabilization laws that could have upended a system capping rent increases on roughly 1 million apartments citywide.

The high court on Tuesday said it would not consider two cases brought by landlords of rent-stabilized buildings in Long Island City and parts of Manhattan who argued the regulations prevented them from evicting tenants after their leases expired. But the court didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of future challenges.

In addition to limiting annual rent increases, the rent-stabilization laws require owners to offer tenants lease renewals in most cases. The landlords — a group of limited liability companies — said those rules violate their property rights, though past decisions from the Supreme Court have upheld rent regulations elsewhere.

The Supreme Court previously rejected two related challenges brought by the landlord trade groups Rent Stabilization Association and Community Housing Improvement Program, or CHIP, in October 2023.

CHIP Executive Director Jay Martin said it won’t be the last time property owners try to overturn the rent laws. Two similar cases are pending in federal appeals court — the final step before reaching the Supreme Court.

“We’re expecting there will be other challenges,” he said. “But this puts even more pressure on the Legislature.”

CHIP and other landlord groups are urging state lawmakers to revise regulations that eliminate hefty rent increases on vacant apartments — a practice known as a “vacancy bonus” — and limit increases related to apartment renovations. Lawmakers enacted those measures as part of a sweeping package of reforms strengthening regulations in favor of tenants in 2019, sharply limiting the tools available to landlords to raise rents.

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, the housing committee chair, said any effort to reinstate the vacancy bonus is a non-starter, though she said lawmakers are open to reviewing rules capping increases related to individual apartment improvements, or IAIs.

She said the vacancy bonus incentivized owners to drive tenants out of their units so they could raise rents between occupants.

“We are not going to go back in time,” Rosenthal said. “That was a prime motivator of harassment on tenants.”

She said she hoped landlords and their advocates would drop their attempts to “circumvent” the state’s regulations.

“Landlords can have their dreams, but they’re not going to become reality,” Rosenthal said.

Read More: The Gothamist