Lawyers still haggling over rent laws
Despite claims of progress, there is no vote on 3rd day of talks

Associated Press
Albany Times Union, June 19, 1997
ALBANY -- It was Day 3 and counting Wednesday as lawyers for Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders continued efforts to finalize their "conceptual agreement'' to extend the state's rent laws.

By late Wednesday afternoon, all sides were largely conceding that no bill would be voted on before today, although they agreed progress was being made.

"The lawyers are making tedious, but significant progress,'' Pataki said.

The laws, which expired at midnight Sunday, provided rent protections for more than 1 million apartments, most of them in the New York City region.

Late Sunday night, Pataki and the leaders reached agreement to extend the rent protection system for at least six years.

In the end, the agreement was reached through a plan to give landlords minimum rent increases of 20 percent when a rent-regulated apartment is vacated. The increase would be even greater if the previous tenant had been in the apartment for eight years or more. But the apartment would remain rent-regulated for the new tenants.

The revised rent laws are to be retroactive to Sunday.

Among other things, the lawyers were battling over language requiring renters to deposit at least a portion of their rent into special escrow accounts when there was a dispute with a landlord. Tenant activists have threatened a lawsuit if that provision is included in the new rent law. Landlords have insisted the provision is needed to make sure they get paid back rent if they win their cases.

There were also problems with legal language over the luxury decontrol program, where wealthier tenants lose their rent protections, and over provisions dealing with who gets to inherit a rent-regulated apartment.