Supreme Court May Hear Owner's Challenge to Rent Control Laws

A challenge to NYC's rent control laws has caught the attention of the highest court. The Supreme Court has asked New York City and State to file answers by Jan. 4 to an owner's petition to be heard. The owner contends that New York City's rent laws constitute a "taking" of his property without just compensation, a violation of his constitutional rights. If the owner has his way, the nation's highest court may soon be examining New York City's rent stabilization laws for the first time since the 1920s.

After the owner lost his case at both the trial court and the Circuit Court, the city waived its right to file opposition papers to the owner's petition to the nation's high court, presumably confident that the Supreme Court would deny his appeal and dismiss his petition. However, one of the nine justices has told the city to file response papers, indicating an apparent interest in the case.

The owner's building has six apartments, three of which are rent stabilized, and those tenants pay about 59 percent of market rate. The building has been his family's home for five generations and six decades.

According to the complaint, lower courts told the owner that the law was against him, that rent stabilization is indefinite and that he can either sell the building or demolish it to get rid of his tenants. But the building is in a historic district and cannot legally be demolished.