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

OP/ED | 4/30/2012 @ 2:55PM


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