Court Defers Decision on Whether to Take Rent Regs Case

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's not clear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could decide the future of rent regulations in New York.

The high court was scheduled to consider whether to hear Harmon v. Kimmel last Friday. That's the suit brought by an Upper West Side landlord, James Harmon, who was frustrated by his inability to charge some of his tenants market rents.

But Harmon v. Kimmel was not on Monday's orders list, meaning the Justices did not vote on reviewing the case. The high court could decide anytime between now an June whether to take the case, or they may take no action at all, letting the law stand.

More than 1 million city residents pay artificially low rents as a result of the 1940s era law that created rent control and rent stabilization.

There have been many challenges to the law, but Harmon v. Kimmel is the first one that could by heard by the nation's highest court.

Until this point, courts have upheld the rent laws. In September, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Harmon.

New York State and New York City are defending the law.


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Comments [25]


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Jun. 05 2012 08:34 AM

NYC's rent control laws are clearly a matter for the US Courts, not a states-rights issue, because they violate the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which states "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." We are all in agreement that NYC's rent-control laws are ostensibly for 'public use,' and that landlords are not being compensated. So the question is, is it a taking when a landlord has 50% - 90% of the rents seized by the law, and has 100% of the property seized (e.g. he/she can not move into the property and can not evict a tenant and the tenant can pass along the rent control to others without the landlord's consent). Yes people, that is a taking.

NYC's laws would be a states-rights issue and the US Supreme Court would have no business in it if the law compensated landlords. At issue here is not the 'rent control' part of the law, it is the government taking 'without compensation' part. NYC's law would be entirely constitutional if the government paid landlords for the portion of their property seized.

Ponder this: We help the needy afford food by taxing society broadly to provide Food Stamps. We do not require grocers to sell food at 50% - 90% below market, and thus bear the entire cost of supplying food for the needy. Why should helping the needy with their housing work any differently than providing food? And for goodness sakes, we already do have many, many Section 8 housing programs throughout the land that do work just like Food Stamps...

Apr. 21 2012 08:51 PM
Craig from New York City, Chelsea

This comment in your article:

"More than 1 million city residents pay artificially low rents as a result of the 1940s era law that created rent control and rent stabilization."

Is not a statement of fact but an opinion, I am surprised by this. I am rent stabilized and have lived in my apartment for 35 years. My rent is not low, just practical, So I don't pay $4500 a month does that make me a criminal? I moved into Chelsea when it was boarded up and neglected. Having stabile tenants at the time help to keep Chelsea alive. The law not only protects tenants but landlords in a depressed time. It insure landlords raises during the tough times. The rents in NYC are out of control not the tenants

Apr. 18 2012 04:06 PM
JLC from nyc

I believe Mr Landlord w that woman paying 250 a month you get a tax break if that is SCRIE. The problem here is that many landlords tend to exaggerate. In Manhattan they are doing well w vacancy decontroll and the overall rent roll should make up for the losses w people like the woman paying 250. There are fewer and fewer rent regulated tenants in places like Manhattan below 100 street. The rents in these areas are outrageous and would get worst if the rent regulations were removed because of the limited amount of rental property. Many people are coming from suburbs and going to city. I hope some landlords concious will be their guide.

Apr. 18 2012 07:37 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

anna and jimfrombayride: you're probably thinking of J-51, which is a more recent deal the RGB made with landlords of stabilized buildings. basically, it allowed a tax break for improvements made to stabilized buildings and maintaining stabilized apartments. however, larger landlords like that that bought stuytown and many other large apartment buildings took the tax break, and rolled thousands of apartments out of stabilization by claiming "capital improvements." that case is now only semi-settled. stabilization itself was established after WWII.

Apr. 17 2012 08:03 PM
Evil Landlord

My god, some of the comments on this site are moronic. First, the case is brought by a man who inherited the property, so no he didn't buy the building knowing full well he had rent stablized tenants. Second, it's his building and he was not allowed to have a family member move in (his nephew). The law was recently changed, but for years a rent stablized tenant's nephew could inherit the apartmnent, but a landlord's nephew could not take it over even though he owned the building, paid the property taxes, maintenance etc. Yes, I'm a landlord with a rent controlled tenant paying $250 a month for a huge 7 room apartment. I lose a lot of money every month because her rent does not cover the heat, taxes etc. I can't raise her rent because she has a senior citizen exemption - over 55. Do renters really think that's fair that I personally subsidize her while she has cable hooked up to 5 different TV's and her kids who drive very fancy cars could obviously support her? The problem is 1. it's not means tested and 2. private landlords should not bear the responsibility, it should be spread out over society.

Apr. 17 2012 09:48 AM
anna from new york

I don't know. I am not a lawyer. I am just sure that the situation is more complicated than the developers present. In general, I am not typical and view things differently. For example, I can't have an absolute admiration for the human document which was created with the statement that there are humans and subhumans/3/5 humans. I also don't think that employees are property of employers and the woman who gave birth, spent countless sleepless nights to take care of the "property" looses any right to this "property" the moment this "property" crosses the threshold of a workplace.
I have trouble understanding this way of thinking. Frankly, I think very few people outside this country (or coming here with a solid brain) can understand it.

Apr. 17 2012 09:44 AM
JLS from NYS

Anna, I read your comment about mortgages. I thought that if the Supreme Court were to rule against the rent laws because of the 5th Amendment (not taking property which belongs to another individual) then wouldn't the banks have to return the homes that they took in foreclosure because the banks are not on the deeds so they are not rightfully the bank's property to take. This change of NYS law would have far reaching implications. It would also change California rent control laws. I think that this would be unwise for the Supreme Court to hear this case it definitely falls under the Amendment of State Rights and it should be left to NYS to sort out.

Apr. 16 2012 09:43 PM
JLC from NYC

We will have to combine our finances to hire a really good Tenant Attorney firm who is familiar with constitutional law. Because we need to have someone articulate to argue this case.

Apr. 16 2012 09:27 PM
JC from NYC

According to the US Supreme Court calendar the case has been pushed to Friday, April 20. I think the strongest argument in keeping these laws is the low vacancy rate which is below 3%. The rent laws come off if the vacancy rate goes above 5%. Also, renting an apartment falls under commerce or business and all companies are regulated at one level or another by the labor department or the SEC. I do not understand why there is such a problem with this law when a landlord buys the real estate fully aware of the rent laws in place. Many landlords buy out tenants. However, dishonest landlords would really take advantage of the situation if they took off these laws. It is just evil. NYC has about 1,000,000 tenants and it is also against States Rights which is one of the amendments if the US Supreme Court gets involved. THIS IS A NYS ISSUE NOT A US SUPREME COURT ISSUE.

Apr. 16 2012 09:11 PM

Too bad tenants didn't mobilize after 9/11, when the unique psychological & economic situation was ripe to freeze if not defeat the usurious annual rent hikes wangled by the laughable RGB. Defeat your apathy, tenants, fight for your money, your city, your future:

Apr. 16 2012 06:02 PM
anna from new york

"Were not these rent controlled laws put into effect because developers were given ..."
Jim, I was thinking along the same lines. There are probably many more aspects to it. How about mortgages with their tax breaks (our money)? etc.
I think in general it's time for tenants to organize seriously.
I can imagine cameras rolling when people (the sick, the elderly, children etc.), now homeless, "litter" the streets while a freshly minted New Yorker (a daughter of some KGB billionaire or some of Middle East monster) looks from the window at the "litter" and tanks sweeping it. Hmm.
Let the cameras of the world roll.

Apr. 16 2012 04:44 PM
Jimfrombayride from Stepchild

Were not these rent controlled laws put into effect because developers were given
Special tax abatements? And loans to build? Or am I confusing this with something else?
Any way I know that many seniors, military veterans and regular folks are
Barely getting by. I know that NYC will evenly be mainly for the rich.
Us regular slops will be in living in the outer boroughs. This is the
Ultimate goal of the current administration and the wealthy. I live in Brooklyn
and when I go to NYC or sneak in. It's like two different worlds.
In NYC I see flowers, special turning lanes, bicycle lanes ( hardly being us
Execpt for an occasional pizza delivery). Promenades or sitting plazas.
Parks, running tracks, doggie walks etc.
Here in Brooklyn they took away our weekend express bus to NYC. Closed some senior centers
Closed otb's of course where many retires and vets use to love to meet their friends
and hang out. I know it was not making MONEY!!!!!!! So they say. I think poor
Management. Gotta go.

Apr. 16 2012 02:25 PM
anna from new york

Why don't you open a history (look up the word) book - one or two - to see how safe your solution will be when the country is set on fire.

Apr. 16 2012 12:20 PM

it's never been safe to be a renter in NYC. even with economic ups and downs, land values are too high, the pressure too great, and eventually, the rents that are considered normal in other municipalities are forced up. my solution was to leave the city, buy and build equity elsewhere, and return as a (modest) owner. still not totally secure, but not as hair-raising.

Apr. 16 2012 10:45 AM
robert from Brooklyn

Speaking as a landlord and former tenant, I don't think its fair to demonize all landlords. I have tried to offer my tenants well maintained apartments for less than market rate. My building is not rent stabilized, so technically I could raise their rents as high as I like and I am sure I could get more rent for the units I do have. Over the past three years though, I have only raised rent slightly to cover the my increased property tax, heating and maintenance costs. That said, as a former renter there are many many examples of people just barely getting by and spending an exorbitant amount of their income on rent for a less than well maintained apartment. New York isn't easy that's for sure.

Apr. 16 2012 10:11 AM
EALfromNYC from New York City

I've lieved in NYC for 46 years now. I'm 67, disabled, and living on social security benefits which are just enough to pay my monthly rent and utility bills. My rent stabilization apartment is falling down around me and to make it a reasonable environment to live in it would have to be completely rebuilt. The landlord could give a sh~t about it. The only way I manage to survive is that I have an apartment mate friend who is also disabled but willing to live under these conditions as it helps the two of us. I've lived in this apartment for the past 32 years, and have paid one hell~of~a~lot of rent during that time. Being forced to leave this apartment means that my apartment mate and I will be joining the masses living in tents in Central Park... That is, until Homeland Security, Bloomberg's military NYC police force, and God knows who else stops harassing and arresting the OWS members and arrives at Central Park to attempt to move a few million of us who'll be living there. That's when the REAL REVOLUTION will begin.
See you there guys/gals/children/grandparents/the elderly/and family pets.

Apr. 16 2012 10:06 AM

Manhattan: The Ultimate Gated Community!

Apr. 16 2012 09:53 AM
Robert from Manhattan

This is rich! (Pun intended) So typical of todays society and politics. Its always about money first (rich people) regular people last. Corporate and personal greed and the feeling of entitlement these "folks" have is appalling. Now the very polical Supreme court decides on NYC rent regulation? What happened to states rights? Oh yeah, that only applys when the Supremes want it to apply. My landlord isnt getting any more money from me. We can tangle about in court for the next 10 years. If he wins, I destroy his apt.

Apr. 16 2012 09:22 AM
weldon999 from Queens ny

No one truly knows what the regulations have done.Yes they restrict free market rents but what would those rents have been without rent stabilization? What would have happened to neighborhoods if people moved more often, which they would have if the law had not existed. How much new construction would have taken place what would then be fair market rents?
Landlords have been ignoring the law continuously and charging improper rents. They have also played with aspects of the law to to increase rents.Can anyone say Stuyvesant Town .a notable failure of landlords yo get their way a rare exception.Landlords are badly represented in the halls of govt that make these regs.

ae exception

Apr. 16 2012 08:54 AM
anna from new york

Fact checker, you are right - it's the last defense. They have eliminated jobs and made sure that everyone is enslaved and lives from check to check while working for some 80 hours a week. The elimination of rent protection will be next and final step to labor camps. They will build some barracks and put a sign: "Arbeit macht frei" which of course was an American idea to begin with, now, finally on American soil.
America the beautiful ...

Apr. 16 2012 08:47 AM
anna from new york

I meant to say:
"It will mean many things"
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to predict the future of the place when suddenly several million people are displaced/homeless in the city of Wall Street/corporate CEOs and celebrities mansions.
The French revolution might seem to be a prelude to the real thing.

Apr. 16 2012 08:37 AM
anna from new york

It will many things:
- mass suicide/murder of the elderly/poor families when parents can't afford to and/or move
- concentration of the extremely wealthy people in one place - a perfect target for radicals who will have no scruples attacking it
- total destabilization of already vulnerable country with its complex and tenuous ethno/racial/religious structure
- civil war

Apr. 16 2012 08:26 AM
Fact Checker from NYC

Rent regulation is the last defense of the middle class in NYC. In 2007 (latest available data), the median income for rental households was $36,200. This and other data is available at

Apr. 16 2012 08:19 AM
Susan from NYC

I live in NYC, and rent is beyond obscene. If this actually happens. mayor bloombucks gets his wish, NYC will only be for the wealthy.


Apr. 16 2012 08:10 AM

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