FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 2, 1997

Governor's Plan Protects Senior Citizens

Governor George E. Pataki today met with senior citizens at the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults to discuss his plan to protect all senior citizens in rent regulated apartments and ensure they can keep their apartments for as long as they want.

"My plan would preserve rent law protections for every senior citizen, regardless of their income," Governor Pataki said. "That means if you want to stay in your apartment for five years or 30 years -- even 50 years -- you will be protected by the rent laws just as you are today.

"Senior citizens have made enormous contributions to our City, from educating our children to building the roads and bridges New Yorkers rely on every day," the Governor said. "They must be protected and they will be protected under my plan."

Governor Pataki's nine-point plan protects all seniors regardless of income, keeps protections in place for them and their families for as long as they reside in a rent regulated apartment, and includes stiff prison sentences for landlords who harass tenants.

The Governor's plan would also maintain the broad rights of succession that family members of tenants presently enjoy, ensuring that tenants can turn over their leases to their children, other family members or anyone with whom they live and have a long-term loving relationship.

"In short, my plan means that nothing changes for every middle-class tenant and their families," Governor Pataki said. "Rent control is too important for 'politics as usual.' Unfortunately, some people want to scare tenants. That's wrong. With your help, we can send a message to the State Legislature: pass the Pataki plan to protect renters so New Yorkers can keep the protections they need and deserve."

Governor Pataki's plan would ensure that all working families that earn less than $175,000 continue to receive the full protections of rent laws. Only individuals in households with an income exceeding $175,000 annually -- the top 1 percent - - would be required to pay market rates, regardless of what they now pay in rent.

"My proposal is a fair and balanced approach that meets the needs of the elderly, disabled and the families of New York," Governor Pataki said. ###

GOVERNOR PATAKI'S PLAN TO PRESERVE RENT REGULATION

The following proposal is offered to continue the protections of rent regulation for senior citizens, the disabled, and the hard- working low and middle income families in New York State who occupy rent regulated apartments. At the same time, this proposal begins the gradual and necessary transition towards a market-based system. Key features of the proposal would:

PROTECTING WORKING FAMILIES:

Maintain rent regulation for all apartments occupied by tenants earning up to $175,000 annually.

Tenants earning up to $175,000 annually who reside in rent regulated apartments would continue to receive the protections of the rent laws. As a result, 99 percent of hard-working New Yorkers and their families will retain their rent-regulated apartment for as long as they remain in occupancy.

PROTECTING THE ELDERLY AND DISABLED:

Maintain rent regulation for all apartments occupied by senior citizens and by persons with disabilities, regardless of income.

Senior citizens and the disabled must be protected, regardless of income or wealth. Accordingly, no apartment occupied by a senior citizen or a person with disabilities will be deregulated under this proposal.

PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF FAMILIES:

Continue unchanged the broad rights of succession that family members of tenants presently enjoy.

Under present law, family members of a rent regulated tenant have the right to occupy the apartment when the tenant dies or permanently leaves the apartment. In order to continue to give family members the protections they need and deserve, the current policies governing succession rights will continue unchanged.

CRACKDOWN ON DISHONEST LANDLORDS, PART I:

Strengthen civil penalties for building owners found to have harassed tenants.

New York State will not tolerate building owners who engage in the harassment of tenants. An owner who harasses a tenant to obtain vacancy of an apartment would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation under this proposal. Further, an apartment vacated as the result of harassment would remain subject to rent regulation.

CRACKDOWN ON DISHONEST LANDLORDS, PART II:

For the first time, owners who harass tenants would be subject to criminal prosecution under specific provisions of the Penal Law.

An owner who harasses, intimidates or threatens a rent- regulated tenant would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. If the harassment interferes with the delivery of any service that impacts the health and safety of a building resident -- such as cutting off heat or water -- the owner would be guilty of a Class E felony. If the harassment involves the threat of violence, the crime would be elevated to a Class E felony; in cases of violence or if the owner is a repeat offender, the crime would be elevated to a Class D felony.

CRACKDOWN ON DISHONEST LANDLORDS, PART III:

Strengthen enforcement and penalties for owners who engage in rent gouging

Unscrupulous owners who attempt to extort additional rent from tenants over and above the legal limits will face swift and severe criminal and civil sanctions. In addition to working with District Attorneys throughout the State to strengthen enforcement of the Penal Law prohibitions against rent gouging, the Attorney General will, for the first time, be authorized to prosecute these crimes. Civil penalties against rent gouging will also be strengthened under this proposal.

NO TIME LIMIT ON TRANSITION:

No statutory mechanism to phase- out rent regulation by a specific date.

This proposal would allow for the phasing out of rent regulation over time according to the provisions of the previous point. It does not set a specific date or time frame for the end of rent regulation.

RESPONSIBLE LONG-TERM TRANSITION:

Protect current and future generations of rent regulated tenants by maintaining regulation throughout their occupancy.

Current tenants and their families, under current laws of succession, will continue to enjoy the protections of rent regulation until they voluntarily leave the apartment. Only after the tenant and any successor family members have died or moved of their own choice will the apartment become subject to deregulation. This approach protects current and future generations while facilitating an orderly transition to a market system.

FAIR HEARING ESCROW ACCOUNT:

Require rent payments to be deposited in an escrow account with the Housing Court after a postponement of a proceeding to collect rent.

Under present law, tenants generally do not pay rent during the course of a landlord-tenant proceeding in Housing Court. In cases where the owner ultimately prevails after months, and even years, of litigation, it is often difficult for the tenant to pay and for the owner to collect the back rent. This proposal requires tenants to deposit their rent payments in an escrow account with the Housing Court after an adjournment of a landlord-tenant proceeding, except where the adjournment is requested by the landlord or the tenant alleges an eviction.