Landlord Moves
Back on Rent Hike

Daily News Albany Bureau

A red-faced Manhattan landlord backed down yesterday after the Daily News revealed he improperly tried to impose a 337% rent hike on a rent-stabilized tenant.

John Schreiber said he has drawn up a new lease based on the maximum 5% to 7% increases allowed by law for the one-bedroom unit that tenant Jeffrey Brown has called home for 14 years.

"I got counsel this morning that the previous renewal was inappropriate, so we're correcting it," Schreiber said yesterday. "Then it's up to Mr. Brown what he wants to do."

"I would imagine I'll renew," Brown said. "He couldn't try to justify the lease that he sent. It was illegal and it was ridiculous."

Schreiber, jumping the gun on the threatened June 15 expiration of state rent laws, initially notified Brown that the $915.75 rent on his W. 88th St. garden apartment would skyrocket to $4,000 for a one-year renewal.

The cost demanded for a two-year renewal was even more stratospheric $5,000.

In an accompanying letter, the landlord inaccurately said the potential expiration of rent laws in seven weeks authorized a shift to market rents for Brown, whose lease expires in August.

But state officials said Schreiber acted improperly. Mayor Giuliani yesterday called the proposed hike "unconscionable," and said city officials said they would investigate whether other renters had been socked with similar demands.

Tenant advocates said they had no proof that other landlords had tried to impose similar hikes.

However, the incident heightened fear among more than 2 million rent-regulated tenants awaiting the outcome of the war over a threat by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) to let rent laws expire unless state officials agree to phase them out in the next few years.

"Even though this landlord is clearly acting without any legal rights, this could be a preview of what we'll see after June 15," said City Council Speaker Peter Vallone.

Vallone, a Queens Democrat who may run for governor next year, criticized Gov. Pataki for "lack of action" on the rent battle. Pataki brushed off Vallone's comments as "political."

Original Story Date: 043097
Original Story Section: City Central