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.

“We are disappointed that the court did not hear the case,” said Sherwin Belkin, a partner at a partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman. “This case sparked national and local attention and caused many landlords to hope that it would open the door to constructional challenges to the rent laws.”

Mr. Harmon also claimed that the laws do not accomplish what they are supposed to do, which is to preserve affordable housing for those in need. Mr. Harmon claims that one of his tenants, who pay him only about $950 a month in rent, owns a house in the Hamptons.

City officials applauded the Supreme Court decision. “The court’s decision is consistent with longstanding precedent that affirms the city and state’s authority to enact these laws, which are an integral part of the city’s effort to provide affordable housing to New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in a statement. “Now, the city’s rent regulation system can proceed unfettered, as we continue to ensure affordable housing is available to New Yorkers.”

 

 

Source: Crain’s

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