Landlords who got aid are illegally raising rents: AG

Letitia James says renewal notices violate program terms, amount to “double-dipping”

Attorney General Letitia James (Getty, iStock)
Attorney General Letitia James (Getty, iStock)

Tenants have reported getting lease renewals with rent increases after their landlords received money from the state’s emergency rental assistance program, the attorney general said Monday.

Those hikes violate the program’s rules.

ERAP provides money to owners to cover arrears, but landlords must keep rents steady for a year after receiving the first relief payment.

“Landlords who accepted payments from the state yet are still raising rents are double-dipping and breaking the law,” James said, adding that some lease renewals may have been generated automatically by management systems.

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The attorney general added that she is “ready to take action” if landlords break the rules, but she did not say what she might do.

The warning comes as demand surges for rentals in the city, triggering record-breaking increases. Rents are up nearly 40 percent from this time last year, according to data from Zumper.

Landlords looking to profit off those jumps have been quick to hike rents, pricing out existing tenants. In some cases, prospective tenants have engaged in bidding wars.

James’ warning also applies to the 180,000 owners who have applied for relief but have yet to be approved. Owners who plan to accept funding should not raise rents, she said.

In the past month, the U.S. Treasury and state have injected a combined $919 million into ERAP to satisfy some of those pending applications. But the money might cover less than half of what New York rental owners are owed.

James instructed tenants who received a notice seeking an illegal increase to return the document to their landlords with a note explaining that receipt of ERAP funding precludes a rent raise. Those tenants should ask for a new lease.