New York Landlords Pushing Vulnerable Tenants Out of Rent Stabilized Apartments

July 10, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

Since New York’s Rent Guidelines Board approved a dramatically low increase on rent stabilized apartments (1 percent increase on one-year leases and a 2.75 percent increase on two-year leases), landlords are doing everything they can to create vacancies that will allow them to raise the prices for new, incoming tenants.

Traditionally, this has been accomplished through “buy outs” — monetary offers to their existing tenants to get them to move. But these situations can lead to abusive behavior from landlords, exploitation of vulnerable tenants like non-English speakers. Additionally, landlords put pressure on tenants by threatening eviction or cutting off services like electricity, both of which are specifically banned by a law from 2008. The New York Times writes about the number of these complaints rising recently:

Since that city law went into effect, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said, the number of complaints has been rising — to 748 last year, from 541 in 2012. While most cases are ultimately withdrawn or dismissed, of the more than 3,200 filed since 2008, about 600 led to settlements and 44 ended in a finding of harassment.

In some cases, landlords propose extremely low buyouts — as low as $2,000 for some Spanish speaking families. Many of these tenants do not have the resources to take their landlord to court over harassment and unlawful pressure. Even those who are given buyouts of $100,000 or more can’t justify leaving their home. After the costs of moving and an increased rent on their new apartment, the money barely lasts three years.

Meanwhile, rent-regulated apartments are now even more precious and rare. (Photo: @chrisgold)