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Heastie promises balanced approach to rent regulations

Fear not, landlords!

That was the message Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie delivered from the podium during a Crain’s breakfast Friday at the New York Athletic Club. The legislative leader seemed to push back on some of the bolder promises of his members and of newly empowered fellow Democrats in the state Senate, who have proposed massive expansions of tenant protections and the elimination of regulations that allow property owners to pass expenses on to their tenants.

Instead, the lawmaker indicated he would take a centrist and ecumenical approach to renewing the lease laws, which are due to expire in June.

“I think we have to deal with it in a balanced way. We need to ensure that people are protected,” he told the packed house. “We don’t want New York City to be a place where people are priced out of their home. But you also don’t want to swing it too far to where you disincentivize landlords investing in their buildings.”

Heastie said his conference would consider eliminating statutes allowing landlords to claim a “vacancy bonus”—a 20% increase in the lease price—when an apartment becomes vacant, often leading to a so-called decontrol, whereby the rent exceeds $2,700 per month and thus is no longer subject to legal limits. But he signaled he would only limit, rather than repeal, laws enabling building owners to add the cost of major capital improvements to their tenants’ monthly bill.

He also said his conference would review the regulations governing preferential rents, whereby a landlord charges a tenant less than the maximum allowed but may increase the rent upon lease renewal.

“Pretty much the city has become almost unaffordable,” he said. “But now that there’s a Democratic Legislature, I think we have to make sure you don’t swing it all the way back to the other side.

“We have to strike a balance on how we’ll allow people to stay in their apartments, not have multiple MCIs hobbling them which will last into perpetuity.”

Heastie said his conference will not press the rent issue during negotiations around the state budget, due April 1. Instead, he said that he, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will take up the matter before the end of the legislative session in June.

SOURCE: Section Page News – Crain’s New York Business – Read entire story here.