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NY rent-control laws expire; lawmakers say, 'Don't worry'

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

ALBANY -- State lawmakers on Monday let rent-control laws expire for millions of tenants with a shrug, while assuring them that nothing serious would happen if renewal occurs a little late.

The Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate voted on different versions of a rent-control bill and sought to claim the high ground about not letting rent laws expire.

After failing to strike a deal, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statement saying there would be "no short term" impact and warning landlords against trying to take advantage of the situation.

The Alliance for Tenants Power, an advocacy group, blamed Cuomo for the expiration because the Democrat tried to tie a controversial education tax credit to the passage of rent laws.

Lawmakers noted that the rent laws had lapsed before without a real impact and promised renters that an agreement will be reached. Eventually.

"Please be assured that the rent laws will be authorized before the session concludes and will almost certainly be retroactive to the date of expiration," wrote Assemb. Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan) in an email to constituents late Monday. "If there are several days where the rent laws have technically expired, tenants should know that they are still protected."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio voiced frustration that state lawmakers dawdled until the deadline, possibly putting 2 million renters in limbo. "All Albany had to do was recognize that this deadline was coming," said de Blasio, a Democrat. "Years in the making, this deadline was coming."

The Assembly approved a bill, largely along party lines, that would renew rent laws for two days -- matching the scheduled end of the 2015 legislative session. The laws largely affect the five boroughs of New York City, but Nassau County also has some rent-controlled apartments.

The Senate planned on voting for a bill that would extend the laws for eight years -- but install provisions Democrats oppose, such as verifying qualifying renters' income.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) noted that homeowners must qualify for benefits of the STAR (School Tax Relief) program, which reduces property taxes. He said that currently, "little turnover in the limited [rent-controlled] housing available" puts "further pressure on the affordable housing market."

Cuomo tried to tie rent control to an education tax credit that would promote tax-deductible donations to private and religious schools. Assembly Democrats oppose the idea.

Lawmakers also are expected to address mayoral control of New York City schools, which also expired Monday.

Cuomo and the Assembly favor a three-year extension, while the Senate has proposed one year.

Assembly Democrats still were fighting to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, but advocates said their odds appeared long with the legislative calendar growing short.

With Emily Ngo

State & Region