The Real Deal New York

Tish James sues the city over rent-freeze law for seniors

Tenants were allegedly unaware of a time restriction on reapplying for benefits

June 05, 2015 05:40PM

Letitia James

Letitia James

New York City is being sued over alleged changes to a rent-freeze program aimed at seniors and the disabled, with Public Advocate Letitia James and lawyers for low-income tenants claiming that frail tenants were taken advantage of on a technicality.

The lawsuit centers on the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE, and a similar one called Disability Rent Increase Exemption, or DRIE, according to the New York Times.

According to the federal suit, the city has recently begun enforcing a little-known or understood provision of the law that says if the head of household passes away, the survivors have 60 days to reapply for the benefit. If they miss that deadline, even if they qualify for the program, their rent will be re-frozen at a higher, updated price.

While the city claims that the provision has always existed, the lawyers are saying that it was not enforced and is only written down in a long PDF document that it is unrealistic to expect every tenant to read.

The plaintiffs in the suit include two 93-year-old widows and a disabled 27-year-old whose mother passed away.

Rent controls have been a hot-button issue lately with the current set of regulations set to expire on June 15. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assemblyman Keith Wright will be holding a rally to strengthen rent regulations on Saturday. [NYT] —Tess Hofmann