Rent Control Violates Property Rights: Why Occupy 76th Street Is Not Fair

OP/ED | 4/30/2012 @ 2:55PM


West 76th Street in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

West 76th Street in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If James and Jeanne Harmon, residents of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, ever call 911 to report a home invasion, they probably shouldn’t expect the NYPD to respond.

Mr. and Mrs. Harmon are senior citizens and the owners of a five-story brownstone on West 76th Street.  They live in the first floor apartment and several unwanted tenants occupy the upstairs apartments.  Under New York’s Rent StabilizationLaw (RSL), Mr. and Mrs. Harmon are required to continue renting the apartments at vastly below-market rents.

The Harmons challenged the constitutionality of the RSL in federal court, claiming that the law violates the Fifth Amendment (“nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation”), the Contracts Clause (prohibiting States from “impairing the obligation of contracts”) among several others.  Having lost in lower courts, including a snide opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Harmons appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Last week, the Justices refused to hear their case.  As a result, the Harmons will likely be forced to provide subsidized housing to their tenants (and their descendants) forever. Continue reading

Rent control in College Park to remain after city reject landlords’ petition

Council to determine next steps at Tuesday worksession

by Holly Nunn, Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2012

A landlord association’s attempt to stop College Park from distinguishing between rental and resident-owned housing has hit a roadblock, leaving the city able to enforce rental controls that landlords and some residents say hurt the area’s housing market and deter renting.

Lisa Miller, president of the Prince George’s Property Owners Association, which submitted petitions signed by about 10,000 residents to amend the city charter, said the group is consulting with lawyers to determine what to do next after city attorney Suellen Ferguson ruled the documents invalid.

“I’m not surprised that the city is doing this, but I think it’s unconscionable that they’re disenfranchising thousands of citizens this way,” Miller said.

College Park’s rent-control law applies to single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes — but not to apartments, hotels, fraternities and sororities — and was enacted in 2005 to protect tenants from unwarranted rent increases.

Landlords of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes can charge no more than the Housing and Urban Development D.C. Metro Area fair market value of $2,522 per building; or the documented rent in 2005; or 0.6 percent of the assessment value of the home for single-family homes; or 1 percent of the value for multi-family dwellings, whichever value is highest.

Opponents of the law say that it decreases home values for all property owners because potential homebuyers are less likely to buy if they cannot cover their costs by renting, especially in an area with a significant student population. Continue reading

High court keeps rent laws

Tiems Ledger


Rent Stabilized Apartments in Bayside Queens
Photo by Christina Santucci.                                                                                                                                                                Rent stabilized apartments, including ones in this Bayside building on 43rd Avenue, will be guided by the same regulations that they have for the past 40 years, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether New York’s rent control laws are constitutional, leaving the regulations intact in Queens and the rest of the city.

The high court had no comment and offered no information on details of the vote by court justices. Four of the justices were raised in New York City.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to consider the case means the rent control regulations will continue as they have for more than 40 years.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. Continue reading

Rent Spikes Denied

NYPress Logo

Written by NYPress on .

Supreme Court says “No” to Upper West Side landlord, keeping rent control intact

By Sean Creamer and Anam Baig

James Harmon’s brownstone (center) at 32 W. 76th St.

James Harmon’s brownstone (center) at 32 W. 76th St.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court weighed a decision that could have meant the destruction of rent regulation in New York. The court decided on Monday morning, after several delays and requests for more information, not to hear a case brought by Upper West Side resident James Harmon against the state’s rent regulation laws. While supporters of Harmon’s fight grumble and regroup and advocates of rent regulation breathe a collective sigh of relief, many people have said that they were surprised that the challenge went this far in the first place, and that the fight to keep rent regulations in place is not likely to end any time soon.

City and state agencies charged with defending rent regulation reiterated the long-standing viability of the law, even as it is has faced legal challenges in the past.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court will allow the existing court rulings dismissing this case to stand. Rent regulation in New York City has a long history, and the court properly left it to elected state and city officials to decide its future,” said Alan Krams, senior counsel of the Appeals Division, in a statement issued by the New York City Law Department.

While rent control is designed to enable people who cannot afford market-rate rents to stay at a comfortable level in the city, one disgruntled property owner decided that his tenants were taking advantage of this system. Harmon sued to overturn the regulations that he said amounted to the taking of his property, since he was not able to rent the units out at market rates. Continue reading

Supreme Court ducks lawsuit on rent regulation

NY Daily News

The Harmons

James and Jeanne Harmon, who sued over rent regulation, deserved their day in Supreme Court.



Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 4:00 AM

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the justices of the Supreme Court discussed whether to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of New York rent regulations as applied to one Manhattan property owner.

The petition for a hearing filed by James Harmon, whose family has owned and lived in a five-story upper West Side brownstone for decades, scared the bejeezus out of tenant advocates and the Democratic establishment.

Why? Because he made a powerful argument that the law forced him to rent in perpetuity to tenants and their heirs at well below market rate, thus depriving him of full enjoyment of property, thus, in effect, taking his property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The court’s inscrutable handling of the matter suggested at least one justice was inclined to put it on the calendar, but in the end it wasn’t to be. A majority said no without explanation, which is in keeping with the court’s standard procedure.

By our reckoning, that was a sad mistake. Harmon waged a valiant uphill fight seeking a statement from America’s highest legal authority about the limits of one man’s private property rights. The question was fundamental and deserved an answer.


Source: NY Daily News

Supreme Court won’t hear New York City rent case

Thomas Reuters

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a constitutional challenge to a New York City rent stabilization law and regulations that control rent increases and evictions for nearly 1 million apartments.

The justices turned down an appeal by a couple, James and Jeanne Harmon, who own and live in a small brownstone building in Manhattan. They claimed three tenants in their building pay government-set rents at 59 percent below market value.

The couple sued in 2008, claiming the rent stabilization law violated their constitutional rights by taking their property without just compensation. They also claimed the law violated the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading

US Supreme Court rejects rent control challenge

Crain's New York


High court declines to hear the case of a Manhattan couple who claimed that New York City’s rent stabilization law was forcing them to subsidize tenants in their Upper West Side brownstone.

April 23, 2012 12:45 p.m.

Published: April 23, 2012 – 12:45 pm

{Bloomberg} The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal that would have challenged New York City’s rent stabilization laws. The decision was released Monday morning.

Landlords James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a five-story, six-unit brownstone at 32 W. 76th Street claim that the city’s rent stabilization laws unconstitutionally forces them to subsidize three of their tenants who pay rents that are 59% below market. The Harmons’ case, which began in 2008, was rejected by a federal district court and a New York State Supreme Court. Mr. Harmon appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and late last year there was a sign of hope when the Court ordered the city and state to respond to the petition, something that previous courts did not require.

“We still believe that the Constitution does not allow the government to force us to take strangers into our home at our expense for life,” said Mr. Harmon, in a statement. “Because of rent stabilization, it will now continue to be difficult for us to keep our home of five generations. We will not demolish our home as the federal courts suggested that we should do if we did not like the law.”

The brownstone has been in Mr. Harmon’s family since 1949. He inherited it in 1994. According to Mr. Harmon’s petition, “New York City’s Rent Stabilization Law has forced the Harmons to lease apartments permanently to three tenants-in-possession for over 90 tenant years (and their designated successors) without regard to financial need.” Mr. Harmon, who resides in the building with his wife, claims that as a result the building’s value has been reduced substantially and his family is deprived of appropriate income. Continue reading