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Stated goal re rent-stabilized NYC apartments falls short

"It's like a sieve on the Upper West Side," says one New York City Council member. "We're just losing them hand over fist."

The "they" that Helen Rosenthal is referring to is the stock of apartments across the city termed as rent-stabilized units. According to a recent count, the inventory currently stood at close to 862,000.

It should be far higher, say housing advocates, but landlords' failure to comply with a court ruling and attendant city policy is resulting in many apartments being inappropriately rented out at market rates.

The state court ruling, which issued in 2009, held that landlords taking advantage of a tax break known as J-51 couldn't also avail themselves of market-rate checks from renters. The essence of the court's ruling was that any city apartment to which J-51 benefits applied could only be deemed a lower-priced rent-stabilized unit.

It is unquestionable that many landlords flouted that mandate, with legions of renters never even being aware of it or their unit's proper designation.

A recent ProPublica spotlight on the matter points to a failed push by the city to return 50,000 units to rent-stabilized status. The publication states that the number has fallen egregiously short of that because the mandate lacks enforcement teeth. Reportedly, "hundreds of landlords appear to have ignored the state's plea to comply voluntarily with laws limiting rent increases."

And thus Rosenthal's lament. She and many others say that simply asking landlords to do the right thing is an ineffectual approach. One tenants' advocate says that politely seeking compliance from landlords is essentially a message to them that they "can continue to flout the law."

Any city renter with questions or concerns regarding the status of their unit and/or their housing-related legal rights might reasonably want to consult with an experienced tenants' rights attorney having a demonstrated record of strong advocacy on behalf of New York City tenants.