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Cuomo, de Blasio warn landlords not to harass tenants if rent control expires

Tenants and their supporters call for Gov. Andrew

Tenants and their supporters call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support the repeal of vacancy deregulation during a demonstration in front of the governor's Manhattan office on June 14, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued stern warnings Sunday to New York City landlords who harass or displace tenants upon the potential expiration Monday of rent regulations.

"Your legal obligations under existing leases and under the passage of the new rent stabilization program will not expire on that day," Cuomo wrote in an open letter to landlords, "and any attempt to circumvent those responsibilities will face the full brunt of the law."

De Blasio meanwhile told reporters in Manhattan: "We will not tolerate any landlords trying to break leases or force out tenants in this atmosphere of confusion."

The clock is ticking for Albany lawmakers to extend the rent stabilization rules covering 2 million New Yorkers. The protections expire at midnight, and the legislative session ends Wednesday. Cuomo said he will keep lawmakers at the Capitol for as long as it takes for rent laws to be resolved.

If there is a lapse between the expiration date and an extension, landlords must comply with the current law, the governor said. They may not, for example, raise rent in response to the expiration, however temporary.

"I want every landlord to be on notice: new rent laws will be retroactive to June 15," Cuomo wrote in his letter.

De Blasio said the city's 311 information service hotline will be ready to field calls from tenants with concerns or complaints about their landlords. He echoed Cuomo's message that intimidation is unacceptable, vowing to "throw the book" at landlords who take advantage of their tenants.

De Blasio and other Democrats want the law strengthened to further protect tenants, but the Republican-controlled state Senate has not picked up the plan.

"People desperately want to stay in their neighborhoods and that will only happen if Albany does the right thing -- not just extends, but strengthens rent regulation," de Blasio said.

The mayor, who has exchanged harsh words with Cuomo this month over other real estate issues at stake in Albany, said the fate of rent regulations is in the governor's hands.

"I appreciate the governor's position, but any governor is responsible for the final result, so we need to see him push the Senate to action," de Blasio said.

Cuomo, in a statement Sunday, commended the Senate for proposing an eight-year extension of rent control -- as opposed to letting it expire -- on Friday night, but also said the plan "poses new hurdles for tenants and it reduces tenant protections."

The Senate may tie rent regulations to an extension of the property tax cap. Members voted last Tuesday on a permanent tax cap. The Assembly last month voted to extend the rules by four years, while making it more difficult for landlords to hike rents on vacated apartments.

Legislators may vote Monday to extend the current law for a short period, whether a couple of days or a year, until a compromise is hashed out.

With AP

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