The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act makes it possible to freeze rents at preferential rates for qualifying New Yorkers. On September 18, 2019, the de Blasio administration released guidance regarding renter rights under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act. This guidance will allow New Yorkers who pay preferential rents in rent-stabilized apartments to benefit from the City’s Rent Freeze Programs.
Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed the Housing Act, which locks in preferential rents for the duration of a tenancy as opposed to the length of a tenant’s lease. Prior to the Housing Act, a landlord could choose to raise a preferential rent to the legal rent at the end of the lease, even if the lease was being renewed. Eligible New Yorkers under Rent Freeze Programs could freeze their rent at the legal rent, but not the preferential rent. Due to the passage of the Housing Act, rents can be frozen at the preferential rates.
The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) are collectively known as NYC Rent Freeze Programs. Under the Program, the City can freeze eligible tenants’ rents at the preferable level as opposed to the legal rent. New Yorkers who live in rent-stabilized homes with a preferential rent no longer need to have their rent reach the legal rent level before incurring the benefit of a rent freeze. This guidance has been included in the applications for SCRIE and DRIE.
The program is administered by the Department of Finance. The program’s goal is to help eligible senior citizens (over 62 years old) and tenants with qualifying disabilities (over 18 years old) remain in affordable housing. A property tax credit covers the difference between the actual rent amount and the frozen rent amount. As of last week, there were 74,666 households enrolled in the programs. These programs are only available in rent-regulated apartments unless otherwise noted.
The City’s Public Engagement Unit and Department of Finance will be canvassing targeted neighborhoods and distributing information at public meetings to ensure the program reaches all New Yorkers who can benefit from it. New Yorkers can check their eligibility by going to www.nyc.gov/rentfreeze.
Who is Eligible?
To qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, you must:
- Be at least 62 years old;
- Be the Head of Household as the primary tenant named on the lease/rent order or have been granted succession rights in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized or a rent-regulated hotel apartment;
- Have a combined household income for all members of the household that is $50,000 or less, And;
- Spend more than one-third of your monthly household income on rent.
To qualify for the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be named on the lease or the rent order or have been granted succession rights in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, or rent-regulated hotel apartment or an apartment located in a building where the mortgage was federally insured under Section 213 of the National Housing Act, owned by a Mitchell-Lama development, Limited Dividend housing company, Redevelopment Company or Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) incorporated under New York State’s Private Housing Finance Law;
- Have a combined household income that is $50,000 or less;
- Spend more than one-third of your monthly household income on rent, and;
- You must have been awarded one of the following:
- Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI);
- S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability pension or disability compensation;
- Disability-related Medicaid if the applicant has received either SSI or SSDI in the past, or;
- The United States Postal Service (USPS) disability pension or disability compensation.
Mayor de Blasio stated, “The City’s rent freeze programs have given tens of thousands of New Yorkers peace of mind and housing stability. Now that we can freeze preferential rents, the program will bring even more relief.”
Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha said, “These programs are an important part of the City’s work to combat housing costs that are out pacing incomes. We want every eligible New Yorkers to sign up and take advantage of these programs.”
By: Laine Vitkevich (Laine is a CityLaw Intern and New York Law School Student, Class of 2020)