Deal reached on rent protections in New York; landlords outraged

The newly empowered Democratic leaders in Albany say they've reached an agreement on bills to strengthen and make permanent rent regulations.

"These reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a joint statement.

Lawmakers have tentatively agreed to abolish the so-called vacancy decontrol, which allows landlords to deregulate an apartment when a unit's rent hits about $2,700 a month and the tenant moves out.

They've also agreed to get rid of the "vacancy bonus," which allows landlords to raise rents by up to 20% when a tenant moves out.

And, perhaps the most hotly debated proposal in the package, lawmakers have pledged to rein in rules that allow landlords to hike the rent in rent-regulated apartments when they renovate the unit or building.

Housing advocates argue building owners routinely abuse that provision to jack up rent and push tenants out.

The real estate industry, on the other hand, said it gives landlords an incentive to keep buildings in livable conditions.

A coalition of landlords called Taxpayers for an Affordable New York called on the governor to veto the bills. 

"This legislation fails to address the City's housing crisis and will lead to disinvestment in the City's private sector rental stock consigning hundreds of thousands of rent regulated tenants to living in buildings that are likely to fall into disrepair," Taxpayers for an Affordable New York said in a statement. "This legislation will not create a single new affordable housing unit, improve the vacancy rate or improve enforcement against the few dishonest landlords who tend to dominate the headlines."

In the past, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have also argued that removing the rules around renovation could lead to disrepair.

But Cuomo said Wednesday that he will sign the legislation. He told reporters that this proposal is the best one that is likely to pass the Legislature.

In a statement, de Blasio praised the Legislature's proposal.

"This is a remarkable achievement that will halt displacement, harassment and unjust evictions, and keep working families in the homes they love," de Blasio said. "Combined with the City's rapid pace of building and protecting affordable homes, these reforms mean we can go from just holding the line to actually growing the number of apartments New Yorkers can afford."

Rent regulations are currently restricted to New York City and a few other localities. The new legislation opens the door for other cities and towns statewide to create their own rent regulation laws.

With FOX 5 NY staff