Rent

New bill aims to fine landlords who warehouse rent-stabilized apartments

If a new bill passes, landlords would face fines for leaving rent-stabilized apartments vacant for longer than three months.

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground/Flickr

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There are plans to fine landlords who leave rent-regulated apartments vacant for more than three months. New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a new bill that punishes the practice of "warehousing." 

If it passes, fines issued to landlords for keeping their apartments empty rather than renting them out would be used to fund housing vouchers for homeless New Yorkers. It could free up thousands of vacant apartments and help alleviate NYC's affordable housing crisis. 

Rent reforms enacted through the Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act last year included several groundbreaking tenant protections, like limiting how much landlords could raise rents to pay for Major Capital Improvements in rent-stabilized apartments. As a result, when rent-stabilized apartments become vacant, landlords say that they cannot afford to make necessary repairs in order to re-rent them. It's possible, however, they may be waiting until they can combine two neighboring apartments and rent it at a higher price. 

According to Crain's, more than 3,000 apartments have been vacated that likely require significant repairs. 

Warehousing has been an issue in conversions of rent-stabilized buildings to condos in the past. Last year's rent reforms addressed this by raising the minimum number of tenants who agree to purchase their apartments to 51 percent. Tenants that do not want to buy can't be evicted. Previously, most conversions required 15 percent of a building’s tenants to agree, and landlords could include vacant apartments in that 15 percent.

The bill is currently working its way through the Senate. Another reform landlords are anxiously awaiting is the 'good cause' eviction bill, supported by many Democrats in the Senate and House, which, if passed, would mean tenants in nearly all market-rate apartments who are paying their rent and not doing anything disruptive would be legally entitled to have their leases renewed.