Brooklyn Landlord Says Rent Law Changes Are Worst-Case Scenario

(Bloomberg) -- When Brooklyn landlord Chris Athineos heard about New York lawmakers’ sweeping, tenant-friendly proposals for rent-regulated apartments, his mind jumped to a particular unit -- with six rooms, 21 windows and two Juliet balcony doors. The current rent-stabilized tenant pays $1,100 a month.

Once his long-term tenant leaves, his options for that aging property will be severely limited. Any fixes he could make to the unit itself would be capped at $15,000 every 15 years. Most of that would be eaten up just replacing one of the balcony doors, with nothing left for windows, kitchen appliances or even a fresh paint job. If he improves the building -- replacing the elevator or fixing the boiler, for example -- he’ll be able to recoup a much-smaller fraction of those costs from higher rents.

“How would they propose that I improve that apartment and bring it up to the standard of living in 2019?” Athineos said in an interview. “I want to keep my tenants warm in the winter -- I don’t want to have drafty windows. How can someone say, ‘Don’t abate the lead paint in your apartment’ — how can I rent to a family moving into an apartment knowing that?”

The bill could be voted on as early as Friday, and Athineos and fellow landlords are still lobbying lawmakers, arguing that the new rules won’t do much to preserve affordable housing -- and may hasten the demise of existing units. Before the vote, Athineos, who says about half of the 150 apartments he owns are rent-regulated, appeared in a TV ad with his father about the proposals, sponsored by Taxpayers for an Affordable New York.

“I’m hoping this is not the final version,” Athineos said of the legislation. “I didn’t even expect anything this extreme even in my worst imagination. Basically they’re eliminating what you can spend to improve an apartment -- where is the common sense in that?"

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.