By: Daniel Jay Korenman
Do New York State’s new rent-control laws violate landlords’ constitutional rights?
Landlords intend to find out in federal court. They are challenging New York’s recent reform measures in a lawsuit filed Monday night. It claims that rent laws approved last month violate both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of New York property owners.
“Specifically, the suit says the expanded rent-control laws violate the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, which states that private property cannot “be taken for public use, without just compensation,” reported Crain’s New York Business. “The landlord groups are betting that the Supreme Court will hear their challenge. The court considered hearing a case challenging New York’s rent laws in 2012 but ultimately let stand a U.S. appeals court decision on the matter. In that case, a landlord had similarly argued that rent control represented an unconstitutional taking of property but was ruled against by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. But the Supreme Court is more conservative now than it was then.”
The Rent Stabilization Association said that, together with The Community Housing Improvement Program, it commenced a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, challenging the constitutionality of the State’s Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) and charging that the RSL, as amended by the Legislature this past June, violates the Due Process and Takings clauses of the United States Constitution.
“In short, the RSL, already vulnerable to challenge, was made even more vulnerable as the result of the June amendments and other recent court decisions which have provided RSA with the legal arguments to challenge the entire RSL system. Among its numerous claims, the lawsuit asserts that the City has never adequately justified its every-three-year declaration of a “housing emergency”; the RSL does not target affordable housing to those in need; the RSL is not a rational means of ensuring socio-economic or racial diversity, and the RSL is not a rational means to increase the vacancy rate,” the group said on its web site.
According to www.unlawfulrentregs.com, the RSL, first enacted in 1969 and revised numerous times – most recently in June 2019 – “has, in over 50 years, never achieved the objectives claimed by its proponents, which include providing affordable housing to low income families, reducing the city’s housing crisis and maintaining socio-economic and racial diversity in the city. The plaintiffs filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against future enforcement of the rent stabilization scheme, which will not only halt the deprivation of the constitutional rights of property owners, but will result in increased development of rental properties and more affordable units available to rent. The suit will also alleviate New York’s constrained housing market, and will force New York City and State governments to adopt fairer and more efficient means of providing housing to those most in need.”