By: Lucy Alcindor
The question of whether or not increases in rent okayed by the Rent Guidelines Board can be applied to empty apartments is being discussed, with no decisions yet in sight.
Since New York’s rent stabilization law was passed, landlords have been seeking clarity on this and other matters.
As New York State’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal recently noted in a memo, it is the Board that will decide whether landlords can up their rents on these empty apartments based on the renewal increases approved by the board for one- and two-year leases.
“Though the agency clears the way for areas outside the city to hike rents in vacant units based on the rates set by their county guidelines board, New York City is the exception. HCR states that the rent board will specifically need to authorize the application of its renewal rates to vacant units, cases where tenants would be signing leases for the first time,” The Real Deal reported. “The state’s guidance has left some in the industry scratching their heads.”
“When the [Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019] was adopted, there was a lot of concern that because the vacancy allowance was abolished and because the statutory language did not clearly allow for rent increases on vacancy leases, based on the lease renewal rate, that there could not be any rent increase on a vacancy lease,” Alvin Schein, a partner at Seiden & Schein, told The Real Deal. “The issue is still confused.”
Indeed, the issue of vacant apartments has garnered much attention of late. As reported by 6sqft.com only weeks ago, “Sources told The Real Deal that Blackstone Group is keeping 20 to 50 rent-stabilized apartments at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village vacant, following state rent law changes that will impede the landlord’s ability to raise rents through renovations. 6sqft reported last month that Blackstone—who purchased the massive 11,000+ unit apartment complex in partnership with Ivanhoe Cambridge for $5.5 billion in 2015—had stopped all non-urgent renovations and other planned work at Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village as a result of the new rent laws.”
According to 6sqft.com’s report, “Blackstone was one of several firms who spent at least $750,000 to lobby against the tenant-friendly law changes in Albany. Seven other New York City landlords, in conjunction with the Rent Stabilization Association and the Community Housing Improvement Program, are currently suing over the new law. Sources say Blackstone may be riding it out to see what will happen in court. One source suggested that warehousing rent-stabilized apartments could be a strategy to “attract the attention of lawmakers.”