New court ruling throws policy of deregulating vacant apartments into question

One judicial edict could re-regulate more than 100,000 market-rate apartments

Dec.December 22, 2016 09:30 AM

Dueling court decisions about the regulation of vacant apartments could be headed for a bigger legal debate.

A 2015 Appellate Court ruling seemed to pave the way for the re-regulation of more than 100,000 market-rate apartments in the city by changing the rules surrounding vacant apartments. Landlords have been permitted to de-regulate vacant apartments when the new legal rent of an apartment exceeded $2,700 a month. The appellate court, however, ruled that the rent should instead be based on the amount paid by the last tenant, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A New Lower Appellate Court decision rejected this ruling in November, potentially setting the stage for more extensive review.

“We do not interpret the contents of a single sentence in the decision…so broadly as to effectuate a sea change in nearly two decades of settled statutory and decisional-law,” the new decision said.

The case surrounds tenant Richard Altman, who filed a lawsuit against landlord Equity Properties Corp. claiming that he was a legal rent-stabilized tenant of 285 West 4th Street. In 2003, Altman was subleasing the apartment from a tenant who paid $1,829 a month. When the tenant’s lease expired in 2005, Equity upped the rent to $2,261.25, according to court documents. [WSJ] Kathryn Brenzel 

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