Property Rights Foundation of America®

from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference of Private Property Rights (PRFA, 1998)

Rent Control
Marcy Ellin Boucher
Apartment Owner, Manhattan

If you are not from the city, you may not be as well aware of what your taxes are going for. I bought my property in good faith in 1985 through a foreclosure sale in hopes that I could live there in peace, collect a few grand, maybe make a profit eventually, and be a good landlord. I have found in the process that it is a total bureaucracy problem and a problem that tenants sought to own my property through using government regulation to assist them, without purchase.

Prior to buying the property, I actually asked them if they would like to own my property, and was willing to just turn it over to them and how they felt about being a landlord. I was assured that they wished to not be a landlord.

I found out, however, after I owned the building, that they had bankrupted two prior landlords before me, and had a process, thinking that because I was a small owner that they could also do it to me.

In essence, what they have done is they have told me that I'm a good person, but they do not wish me for a landlord, that they want to own my property. And how they go about it is using various city agencies, state agencies and actually use them even against one another. They, in turn, file frivolous lawsuits, city actions, etc., etc. and constantly keep me in basically a frenzy of trying to get out of various situations they put me in with the various agencies. As an example, they contact heat, hot water agencies on a daily basis, saying, "I have no heat or hot water."

I live in the building on the second floor and my apartment I sleep in is on the sixth floor. (I have an office on the second floor.) So, obviously I would know if there were problems. However, now that they constantly come to my building, they in essence see that I have no problem but somehow they still get having to come every single day.

Nevertheless, they continue to call for these agencies to make lengthy trips to my building.

In addition to that, various court proceedings have been taking many, many years. I have been in court since I brought the building in 1985. I didn't even get the keys to the building for two years. When I finally got keys and moved into the building I had a constant barrage since then. I have had tenants that have brought actions against me saying that equal treatment is denied when I have had every ethnic, religion, race, creed in my building, etc.

They are ploys to get agencies involved to get me out of my building. There is a program within the City that if a tenant, basically if they don't pay you rent... I have not received rent since I've had the property in 1985, except for approximately two people in the last two years where I am now getting rent on an irregular basis, which I think for almost three years have not received regular payments. We're not even before the judge in the court yet. We're just in the housing department. No payments for the landlord—I mean the tenants are not paying rent at all! So technically, if you look at my property, I've been running it since 1985 and collected approximately two tenants' rent through the entirety of the time, and the other 18 tend to not pay rent. In the last 3 years, I have received approximately... Let me see, most of my tenants are paying under $100 to $180 - $110, $115 in rent. Those that are in court right now are now getting from the court their notices of which they are in contempt of court, and I cannot seem to get them to pay even what the judge ordered them.

The court case I'm speaking of now has been in the process for three years, and we're not even before trial court yet. So you can imagine my expense for lawyers, my expense in time and effort, and that's not even yet before the court to be on trial.

The city agencies that come, I don't need to give you an example, that they waste their time. There are five different agencies that come into my boiler room alone. They could combine it to one and have a lot less tax dollars. They have HRC, Housing, Economic Development and Community Renewal, which is a state agency, that every time I ask for records, conveniently somehow they're lost, misplaced or stolen. I request them from agencies but they can't provide them. This has been going on for 13 years. Now, these records tell what my legal rent could be, when I'm going to collect rents, etc.

I might tell you that the tenants have a process where they can inherit these apartments, by simply not paying the rent, and you therefore cannot pay your taxes. The City has a program where they will give the buildings back to the tenant for less than $250 per unit. This is what my tenants tell me they're going to do. Wait and see. They intend to.

This is your tax dollars. You should be aware and supportive in what is going on in other communities besides your own because it's affecting your state taxes, of which the City government agencies are basically political groups that are formed to help fight landlords to assist tenants to take over property in the state. When we go to various political groups, like Rent Guideline Board, etc., when you go in to testify, the people you find there testifying aren't the tenants. They are the heads of these agencies like Chelsea Coalition on Housing, Metropolitan Council on Housing, Chelsea Group on Housing, because they are politically connected and they are funded with our tax dollars and then these tax dollars help them send people. They get bus loads, like from the senior citizens center at the Met Life Building, that do not need subsidies, do not and cannot deal in these because they make too much money. Yet these are the people you see sitting in the audience, testifying they need rent regulation.

And then when you're in the process of talking about it, how do you justify that the last guideline, the last law that came into effect, the fact that anyone with a hundred dollar rental, a small apartment owner such as myself, gets 20 percent increase? Twenty percent of one hundred dollars is $20. How is that going to help me to afford to provide privatized housing in the city, when it costs the City itself approximately $450 a month to provide basic services of heat and hot water, etc., not including mortgage payments, major capital improvements, etc.?

So I ask you, friends, this. I do think that everyone should be well aware of what's going on in their city, their state, and even in other parts of the country, because these laws, if they do not affect you now, they will later.

Basically, housing is being taken away from small property owners. If I have a building that I cannot afford to run and it gets taken over by the City, they say that it costs them approximately $3.6 million, I believe it is, to rehab that building. Those are tax dollars, even though it is for individuals. And yet people that are on subsidies take over these properties, do not know how to manage or run them, and our taxes are going in to re-renovate these apartments with things they don't even need. I'll give you an example. When I go look over my building without even a new boiler and I've been thirteen years, my boiler's working fine. And all I did was energy conservation practices on my boiler, and got it running efficiently, and it's running at 85% rate. This boiler's been there since 1950.

I would like to tell you that you should encourage others to run. Share your knowledge. One person can change the nation. You could be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don't tell your neighbors what's going on around your city, your state and your federal government, you're going to be a part of what happens to that city, state and federal government. And you're going to experience it when they start encroaching on you.

I hope that you will help educate others and help end these regulations and help all of us. Even owners like myself who are small can help alter public opinion.

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