On the second anniversary of the creation of the new Tenant Protection Unit, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that largely through the work of the TPU, tenants are seeing the first expansion of rent-regulated affordable housing in decades and more than 28,000 new apartments in 2,000 buildings have been added to the rent-stabilization rolls, furthering New Yorks efforts to make its communities safer and fairer.
Two years ago, we created the Tenant Protection Unit to protect the rights and safety of more than one million tenants in New York State, Governor Cuomo said. Since then, the TPU has fought and won for tenants time and again including expanding the number of affordable housing units for the first time in years and holding bad landlords accountable for their actions. As we continue to build safer and fairer communities, the TPU will remain a strong resource and advocate for New Yorks renters.
In February 2012, the TPU was created to actively enforce the State's rent laws, which the Governor and the Legislature had strengthened in 2011. Among its first actions, the TPU conducted a random audit of building owners who, in the last four years, had failed to register rental properties as required by law. The TPU also audited owners and required them to produce proof of building improvements that have been the basis for increases in rent and that were used in the past to move units out of regulation. For the first time, the TPU sent subpoenas to owners who failed to comply with its requests for proof. As a result of these actions, more than 28,000 new apartments in 2,000 buildings have been added to the rent-stabilization rolls.
Owners have also for the first time entered into settlement agreements with the TPU for overcharging unknowing tenants: to date, more than $220,000 has already been returned to those tenants.
Owners have also been required for the first time to revise tenant leases and re-register tenant apartments with HCR under the current rents. In the summer of 2013, the TPU opened investigations into specific Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn landlords who are alleged to have egregiously harassed and overcharged tenants. In January 2014, the Governor announced an historic settlement against one of those landlords, Castellan/Liberty Place, a landlord that had reportedly harassed and discriminated against Spanish-speaking tenants. Click here for more information about the settlement.
"We know that the vast majority of landlords are law-abiding businesspeople who want to work with their tenants, and the TPU has been effective and efficient in rooting out a relative handful of bad apples," said Commissioner and CEO Darryl C. Towns of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), which includes the TPU. "Through the Governor's leadership, state government has played an active role in protecting the more vulnerable among us."
HCR has also issued comprehensive regulations that will govern the new rent laws. These important changes include: clarifying how apartment improvements are calculated and verified; raising the deregulation rent threshold; raising the income threshold; and limiting vacancy bonuses to only one per year, reducing the sort of lease manipulation by landlords that had previously pushed units out of the system.
As a result of the TPU's actions and the fact that far fewer units are leaving the system since the deregulation thresholds were raised in 2011, combined with the HCR-subsidized construction of 6,000 rent-regulated units since 2011, means that for the first time in decades, the number of rent-regulated units in New York State is now expanding.