‘Ruined’ by rent control

Ny Post

‘Ruined’ by rent control

Landlords may lose home


Posted:2:37 AM, May 6, 2012

The lawsuit that almost overturned the city’s rent-control laws only succeeded in upending the lives of the Upper West Side couple who brought the case.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear New York’s highest-profile lawsuit challenging rent control, landlords James and Jeanne Harmon said they may have to sell the five-story town house at the center of the battle — a brownstone their family has called home for three generations.

The case has been costly. The couple had to put off retirement, they cannot provide homes for their grandchildren and they are treated like pariahs by some neighbors on West 76th Street.

“We feel total uncertainty about the future at age 69,” James Harmon, a Vietnam veteran and former federal prosecutor, told The Post. “This was devastating to our family because the house is part of our family. This is the place I grew up, and this is the place my mother died. We should be able to keep this house, but we don’t know if we can continue to do that.”

Harmon argued the city’s 43-year-old rent-regulation laws violated the Fifth Amendment, which protects private property from seizure for public use without “just compensation.” Harmon claimed the rent law denies him that compensation, forcing him to bankroll the lifestyles and second homes of his tenants.

The Harmons occupy an elegant one-bedroom apartment on the building’s parlor floor. They rent six one-bedroom units: three at market value and three at rent-stabilized rates 59 percent below market.

The Harmons moved into the building in 2005, after they took out a $1.5 million mortgage to buy Harmon’s brother’s share of the building they inherited. Continue reading

High Court Turns Aside Rent Case

Wall Street Journal


Updated April 23, 2012, 10:18 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away a constitutional challenge to New York City’s decades-old rent regulations, refusing to take up the case of an Upper West Side landlord and his wife who argued that the government had violated their rights by forcing them to subsidize their tenants.

The high court refused without comment to hear the appeal of James and Jeanne Harmon, the owners of an Upper West Side brownstone. The couple sought to strike down the rules shielding three of their tenants—and about two million other New Yorkers—from market prices.

Lower courts had rejected the plaintiffs’ rent-control challenge. The case gained little attention until the Supreme Court in December requested that New York officials file written responses to the plaintiffs’ high-court appeal. That the court would signal any interest in taking a fresh look at a long-established law surprised legal experts on both sides. But the Harmons ultimately failed to persuade at least four justices to hear the case.

“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, a senior counsel at the city’s law department.

The Harmons argued that the rent rules amounted to a government seizure of private property without just compensation, violating the Fifth Amendment. One of their longtime tenants, an executive recruiter, pays about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom unit, while owning a weekend home in the Hamptons. The couple also contended that the long sustained “public emergency” underpinning the rent controls violated due process.

How Strong Is the Legal Case Against Rent Control?

How Strong Is the Legal Case Against Rent Control?

Writing at Time magazine, Yale Law School lecturer Adam Cohen takes notice of New York City landlord James Harmon’s legal challenge to the city’s rent stabilization law. As Cohen sees it, rent control and rent stabilization are both perfectly constitutional, but he still worries that Harmon may attract five sympathetic votes from the Supreme Court. He writes:
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld rent control, going back to 1921. In 1988, in Pannell v. San Jose, it ruled 6-2 that San Jose’s law did not violate the Constitution — in an opinion written by the very conservative then Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In 1992, in Yee v. City of Escondido, the court unanimously rejected a claim that a rent-control ordinance was an unconstitutional taking of property — just the issue Harmon is raising.
These rulings should settle the question. But rent-control opponents clearly think they have a chance, given how pro-corporation the court is today…. They argue that rent control unconstitutionally deprives landlords of the right to charge as much rent as they want. They like to point to extreme cases of people benefiting who do not need it — like the actress Faye Dunaway, who until recently had a $1,048.72-a-month one-bedroom on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Continue reading

The Case Against Rent Control


The Case Against Rent Control

An Upper West Side landlord challenges a New York City institution

The handsome five-story brownstone located at 32 West 76th Street in Manhattan doesn’t look like it belongs at the center of a contentious legal struggle. But that impression changes when you learn about the recent activities of its owner, 68-year-old James D. Harmon Jr.
Harmon, a former federal prosecutor who once served as chief counsel to President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime, has filed a powerful legal challenge asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down New York City’s four-decades-old rent stabilization law. At first, New York officials thought so little of Harmon’s challenge that they waived their right to file an opposing brief with the Supreme Court. But those officials got a rude awakening when the Supreme Court asked them to respond to Harmon’s petition anyway, signaling that somebody at the Court took the legal challenge seriously.
Does the case against rent control have merit?

Las Vegas Gets It!



Rent control: High court may take up important case

Posted: Jan. 9, 2012 | 1:59 a.m.
In parts of America, an apartment is a place to live for a few years while saving for a house.
That’s less likely to be true in a dense urban metropolis, where land values are so high that even well-to-do families can occupy apartments for a generation or more.
That means tenants — who vote — generally outnumber landlords. When costs go up, landlords seek to raise rents. The tenants squawk. The political result? Rent control.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “exposed the deeply antidemocratic nature of rent control in Pennell v. City of San Jose,” points out New York University law professor Richard Epstein in the Jan. 4 Wall Street Journal. “If the government thinks some high social end is served by allowing tenants to sit on someone else’s property in perpetuity, then it should use public funds … to buy or lease the premises for market value which it can then lease out to particular tenants.”