How NYC landlords continue to use a rent law loophole to spike regulated rents

Originally published in Gothamist

More than three years after New York lawmakers sharply restricted landlords’ ability to hike rents in regulated apartments, some property owners are using a gray area in the law to combine units and dramatically jack up the rents.

The state agency charged with overseeing roughly 1 million rent-regulated apartments in New York knew about the loophole as early as February 2020 and said it would be addressed that spring. But more than two years later, nothing has been done to stop the practice.

During that time, the East Village building Georgina Christ has called home since 1971 has seen some significant changes. Ten of the 22 units in the building have already been combined to create five larger apartments with steeper rents, Christ said, one of the very few ways landlords can still raise rents in a tightly regulated system.

Work is already underway to combine four additional units in the six-story walk-up.

“They already knocked out the hallway to make each individual apartment bigger,” Christ, 72, told Gothamist, pointing to apartments #9 and #10.

Christ tolerates the constant banging, screeches of power tools and the heavy coating of dust because it’s rent controlled, an increasingly rare status that only applies to about 16,400 NYC apartments.