Bichotte: New law would protect tenants

Bichotte votes for passage of DREAM Act
Brooklyn Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Newly-elected Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte says the Assembly has passed a bill to strengthen New York’s rent-regulation laws and improve New Yorkers’ access to affordable housing (A.7526).

The bill extends current law — while enhancing protections for tenants in rent-regulated units — until June 15, 2019.

“New York is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and too many families are struggling to pay ever-rising rents,” said Bichotte, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “By strengthening rent-regulation laws, we can maintain affordable housing options and make it possible for more families to stay in their homes.”

She said New Yorkers today expend too much of their hard-earned income on housing; in some cases at least half of a household’s income is spent on rent.

“That’s why rent-regulated housing is an important source of housing for middle- and low-income families, with New York City having approximately one million rent-regulated households,” she said. “It’s not just the wealthy who live in New York City, but rather a mix of middle-class and working New Yorkers.

“These communities enrich our neighborhoods, support local small businesses and send their children to local schools – to say nothing of those who have lived here for generations,” Bichotte continued.

She said stronger rent regulations are also needed to ensure that families and older adults are not “priced out” of their homes or their neighborhoods.

Under current law, Bichotte said landlords can easily increase affordable rents to levels, “which overburden our families.”

“Right now, landlords can remove a vacant apartment from rent stabilization when its rent exceeds $2,500.00,” she said, adding that “incentives abound for landlords to oust tenants and focus their efforts on deregulating units. This bill works to ensure that affordability — not manipulation for profit — is the order of the day.”

One of the legislation’s more important provisions will keep rents at an affordable level, even if a current tenant moves.

The bill would prevent apartments with monthly rents upward of $2,500 from becoming decontrolled upon vacancy, a threshold that has caused instances where a landlord has harassed a tenant or withheld services to force a tenant to vacate, Bichotte said.

Additionally, she said a landlord who harasses a tenant in order to get them to vacate a rent-regulated unit will face harsher punishments.

The legislation adds a Class-A misdemeanor crime of second-degree harassment of a rent-regulated tenant when a landlord intentionally impairs a unit’s habitability or creates a dangerous environment, and expands civil penalties for tenant harassment.

“Affordable housing is essential to the economic prosperity of our communities,” Bichotte said. “This legislation focuses on protecting New Yorkers to ensure they have access to safe, affordable housing.”

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