The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) will be holding a hearing later today to consider the parting Pataki Administration's 2006 proposed amendments to rent regulations. The proposals come at an inappropriate time, and are bad for tenants.
First, the DHCR has proposed allowing landlords to charge up to two months rent as a security deposit. This proposal would impose significant hardships on tenants in search of an apartment. Between 2001 and 2005, the average income of rent stabilized tenants has decreased from $35,000 per year to $32,000 per year. At the same time, the average initiual monthly rent for new tenants is now $1,011. The proposed change would mean that tenants would have to save a good $4,000 or so for rent, security deposit and moving or broker's fees before they could find a new apartment. The DHCR has not pointed to any compelling data to show that landlords need the additional security deposit. This provision is a clear violation of the goal of the Rent Stabilization Law
to prevent exactions of unjust, unreasonable and oppressive rents and rental agreements.
The DHCR's other proposed change is equally mean-spirited and unnecessary. Basically the DHCR is proposing to allow landlords to pass along to tenants the expense of getting poisonous lead paint out of their apartments. Low-income families who live in apartments with poisonous lead-based paint cannot afford to pay for removal, and, perhaps more importantly, it is simply not their responsibility.
The landlords are renting their apartments out, and it is their responsibility to rent only safe apartments. This new provision would reward landlords who have up until now ignored the housing code and failed to remove lead-based paint from their apartments. Now, they, unlike their law-abiding peers, will be able to get permanent rent increases because of their long-standing endangerment of their tenants. That doesn't sound like the kind of public health incentive system we want to be putting in place.
These proposed changes serve to remind us of the forthcoming changes in Albany. DHCR should reject these 11th hour proposals, and we should all demand better from our next Governor.
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