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Why are so many rent-controlled buildings and units falling into disrepair?

Residents of New York City are all too familiar with the rising costs of living in the city. Among the most expensive of all living costs are those related to renting an apartment. According to an April article in Time Out Magazine New York, today a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan rents for an average of $3,100 per month.

Astronomical rent prices like this make it difficult to impossible for many working-class residents and families to afford to stay in the city. While citylimits.org reports that there are still an estimated 27,000 rent-controlled apartments throughout the city, the number continues to rapidly dwindle as, in 2012, there were roughly 65,000 rent-controlled apartments.

While annual rent increases are regulated for rent-controlled units, when a tenant moves out a landlord is allowed to substantially increase rent prices. It's illegal for landlords to take steps to force out tenants in rent-controlled units; however, there are widespread reports of landlords doing everything in their power to make life miserable for these tenants.

In an effort to identify and stop these unscrupulous landlords, in 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo created the Tenant Protection Unit. Many question the effectiveness of the TPU and a recent article in The Huffington Post chronicled the on-going battle that thousands of New York City tenants who live in rent-controlled units are fighting to stay in their apartments.

It turns out that shutting off the gas to these apartments is a common tactic used by landlords to eventually force tenants out. Without gas, many tenants are forced to use electric hot plates to heat food. Consequently, their electric bills skyrocket and some tenants are eventually forced to move.

In addition to shutting off the gas, numerous landlords have been cited by the TPU for shutting off the heat and hot water during the winter months and for allowing buildings to become rat-infested and fall into disrepair.

Landlords who fail to provide basic utilities and make repairs to a building and individual units should be held accountable. Tenants who are facing these types of issues are advised to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The Noxious Origins of NYC Gentrification: Cooking Gas," Michael Shank, Ph.D., Dec. 28, 2015

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