High Court Denies Certiorari in Rent Stabilization Case

By Brendan Pierson Contact All Articles

New York Law Journal

April 24, 2012


The U.S. Supreme Court announced on April 23 that it will not hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New York City’s rent-stabilization law.

The case, Harmon v. Kimmel, 11-496, was filed against the city in 2008 by James Harmon and his wife, Jeanne. The couple owns an Upper West Side brownstone with six apartments, of which three are rent stabilized. The Harmons argued that the 1969 rent-stabilization law, intended to respond to a housing shortage, was an unconstitutional taking of their property.

Southern District Judge Barbara Jones (See Profile) dismissed the case in February 2010, and Judges Amalya Kearse (See Profile), Robert Sack (See Profile) and Robert Katzmann (See Profile) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal in March 2011. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal marks the end of the case.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court will allow the existing court rulings dismissing this case to stand,” Alan Krams, senior counsel in the Appeals Division of the Corporation Counsel’s office, said in a press release. “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.”

James Harmon said in an e-mail that the Harmon family was disappointed in the court’s denial of cert. “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. Even our grandchildren have been barred from living with us. That is not our America.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the United States Supreme Court did not accept what we believe to be relevant and legitimate property rights concerns of all New York City rent-regulated property owners, who have endured 70 years of rent regulation in one form or another,” Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which filed an amicus brief on the Harmons’ side, said in a press release.


Source: New York Law Journal.

NYC Rent Control: US Supreme Court Won’t Hear Harmon V. Kimmel

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal that seeks to end rent stabilization laws in New York City.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who have lost earlier court attempts to get rent stabilization laws thrown out.

The Harmons inherited a building with three rent-controlled apartments near Central Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Harmons say rent stabilization laws forces them to rent the apartments at rents 59 percent below market rate. They argue that by giving the tenants lifetime tenure with succession rights, the government has illegally taken their property.

A federal judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City threw out their lawsuit. The high court refused to review that decision.


Source: The Huffington Post.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to New York Rent Control Regulations


Posted Apr 23, 2012 9:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss


The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to New York’s rent control regulations.

A plaintiff in the Fifth Amendment case was James Harmon, a former prosecutor who runs a corporate investigations firm. The high court denied cert today, SCOTUSblog reports.

Harmon inherited his New York brownstone in the 1990s. One of his tenants who pays $1,000 in monthly rent also owns a home near the shore in Southampton.


Source: ABA Journal.

Will conservative Supreme Court remove rent regs?



April 5, 2012
Photo by Scott Stiffler
About half the tenants at London Terrace are in rent-regulated apartments. Most would have to leave if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down rent protections.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide this month whether to take a case challenging the constitutionality of New York’s 1943 rent regulation law that gives tenants the right to renew their leases and limits rent increases to a variable percentage. If taken, the case would be heard in the high court’s October term — and a decision would be given by June 2013.

While the rent laws have withstood numerous court challenges over the years, the highly conservative court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has tenants all over New York nervous. The Supreme Court has already declared corporations to have the rights of people and may strike down the federal Affordable Health Care Act. But New York elected officials have yet to contemplate actions government could take to ameliorate the effects of an abrupt end to rent stabilization and rent control.

This article is not about the merits of the rent laws from a tenant or landlord perspective, but a look at what would happen if James D. Harmon, an Upper West Side landlord, gets the U.S. Supreme Court to take his challenge to the constitutionality of the laws. The lower courts have rejected Harmon’s case almost out of hand, given the long legal history of U.S. courts upholding the constitutionality of the rent laws — but tenants in regulated apartments are alarmed about what this right-wing court will do. All we know at the moment is that one anonymous justice asked for the city’s and state’s answers to Harmon’s appeal. Continue reading

Editorial Support: Rent regulation an unfair relic



Editorial: Rent regulation an unfair relic

     Originally published: April 2, 2012 7:12 PM
     Updated: April 2, 2012 7:14 PM
Photo credit: Getty | Stuyvesant Town apartment complex in Manhattan has rent-stabilized dwellings
As New York City extended its participation in rent regulation recently for another three years, theU.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to take on a case challenging its constitutionality. The court shouldn’t wait any longer to determine whether an outdated law that forces a private landlord to continue renting to a particular tenant, and sets the amount of rent charged, violates the U.S. Constitution.
Rent regulation distorts what should be a free market. It results in less rental housing, as landlords shun the business. And it can lead to the deterioration of available housing. Landlords whose rental income is restricted by government fiat have less money and less incentive to invest to maintain or improve their buildings. Continue reading

Rent-Control Consequences


Wall Street Journal Logo

Rent-Control Consequences

This week Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed off on a three-year extension of New York’s rent-control laws. The irony is that these laws distort the housing market and thus create more problems than they solve.

“The rent regulation itself causes the shortage because landlords know they’re not going to get a good return for massively investing in upgrading their housing, so a lot of the existing housing deteriorates,” said Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute in an interview. Developers can build luxury housing that doesn’t come under rent control, she added, but that doesn’t help low- and moderate-income people who can’t afford to live in a Trump Tower. Without rent-control, there would be a greater incentive to build housing for people other than the wealthy.
And then there’s the irony of the left supporting the elites who take advantage of rent control even when they can afford to pay market rates for housing. Ed Koch kept a rent-controlled apartment the entire 12 years he was mayor of New York and lived somewhere else. Former New York Gov. David Paterson and Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel also have maintained rent-controlled properties — Mr. Rangel was recently fined by the Federal Election Commission for misusing a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office. Celebrities like Mia Farrow, Faye Dunaway, Shelley Winters and others have occupied rent-regulated apartments, often while also owning mansions elsewhere.
Where are the “1%” bashers when you need them?

Decades-Old Housing ‘Emergency’ Continues, and So Does Rent Regulation



March 26, 2012, 5:50 PM
Decades-Old Housing ‘Emergency’ Continues, and So Does Rent Regulation

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed a bill on Monday that extended the city’s participation in rent regulation for another three years by redeclaring a state of housing emergency, even as a challenge to rent regulation laws looms in the United States Supreme Court.
“The Department of Housing Preservation and Development reports the vacancy rate in rental apartments to be at 3.12 percent,” Mr. Bloomberg said at the bill-signing ceremony. That, he continued, is “well below the 5 percent rate at which the law requires that rent regulation be discontinued.”
The city has had a vacancy rate of less than 5 percent since the department began keeping track more than 40 years ago, which means it has been in a state of housing emergency for all that time. But critics of rent regulation argue that an emergency by definition must be temporary.