Landlords are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear a case challenging New York’s rent-stabilization laws. The development is not unexpected — in February, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New York’s rent laws after landlords, led by the Community Housing Improvement Program and the Rent Stabilization Association, sued the city and the state. A spokesperson for CHIP and RSA told Gothamist the landlords “always expected” the case would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. Now, they’re shooting their shot.
The case started almost four years ago, in July 2019, after the state strengthened tenant protections through a slate of legislation that made it difficult for landlords to raise rents above the annual increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board, eliminated vacancy and renovation bonuses, and reduced how much landlords could raise tenants’ rents to pay for Major Capital Improvements. RSA and CHIP promptly sued the city and the state, claiming that the laws violated the Constitution’s “takings clause” by forcing them to cap prices and limiting their ability to evict tenants. They lost first in the Eastern District Court in 2020 and then again this winter in the Second Circuit. After hearing arguments in this case, the Second Circuit wrote, “The case law is exceptionally clear that legislatures enjoy broad authority to regulate land use without running afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s bar on physical takings.”
But the plaintiffs are hoping that the Supreme Court, now stacked with conservatives, may be more amenable to their argument. The landlords are also optimistic because of the Supreme Court’s recent Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid decision, which reversed a state regulation that allowed union workers to recruit on private farms. Landlords have argued that rent stabilization represents a far greater taking as tenants are guaranteed lease renewals, with occupancy rights passing on to family members.
“Absent unlawful acts, tenants and their broadly-defined ‘successors’ are entitled to lease renewals in perpetuity,” the landlords write in their petition to SCOTUS. Whether or not this seems plainly descriptive or ominous is a question for the reader. In this case, those readers include Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.