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by Peter Moskos

January 24, 2014

In Defense of Rent Regulation

It's not about police, but my piece in City Limits just came out: "Arguments Against Rent Regs are Vacant of Facts -- Some say New York could relieve high rents by removing rent regulations. And other people say the world is flat."


Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I agree with you insofar as you went--eliminating rent regulation won't have any real effect on market rent prices. But you ignored the real argument for eliminating rent regulation. It has nothing to do with prices.

When you have rent regulation--especially with vacancy deregulation--you have greedy landlords who want to kick out perfectly good tenants. When you don't have rent regulation, you have greedy landlords who want to keep perfectly good tenants.

In the rent regulation regime, greedy landlords will use any excuse they can get to kick out perfectly good tenants. This means that the courts will be in the business of deciding whether the landlord has a good excuse or not.

Since landlord-tenant courts can't afford fancy high-powered judges and discovery, they have a choice: unfairly favor landlords or unfairly favor tenants. They realize that the first choice will subvert rent regulations which, after all, are the law. So they unfairly favor tenants.

This means that landlords won't be able to kick out perfectly good tenants. It also means that they won't be able to kick out perfectly bad tenants, either, or at least not without a huge amount of work. You don't have to be a cop to realize that bad tenants can poison an entire apartment building: drugs, noise, roaches, etc. Landlords know it, which is why they like to proctoscope prospective tenants: credit reports and the like.

Of course, rent regulation does some good. In effect, it gives a moderate number of poor people a home, and exiles a moderate number of yuppies to Jersey suburbs. Is this worth the cost? Or is there a better approach?

PCM said...

Excellent point.
But in the vast majority of apartments, rent-regulated landlords still want good tenants. Most beneficiaries of rent-regulation live in large buildings in the outerboroughs. And it's the unit that is regulated. So the next tenant wouldn't be paying that much more. Certainly not enough more for a landlord to risk a bad tenant. (and, yes, it is hard to evict)

The rare Manhattan case of trying to kick out a good tenant to get a lot more rent is very rare (and usually has to do with rent *control* -- which is something else and almost non-existent).