How to Testify Before the Rent Guidelines Board: Sample Talking Points

How to Testify Before the Rent Guidelines Board: Sample Talking Points

Published: 
June 2014

The Rent Guidelines Board will vote June 23 to set how much landlords can raise rents on rent-stabilized apartments for leases beginning on or after Oct. 1. Before it votes, it will hold public hearings in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to hear testimony from tenants and landlords about how potential rent increases will affect them. (See box on p. 7 for dates and addresses.) On May 5, it recommended that this year’s increases be between zero and 3 percent for one year and between 0.5 and 4.5 percent for two. 

We believe that a rent freeze—or better, a rent rollback—is justified because of the high increases the RGB has granted over the last several years. Despite the recession, stagnant wages, and continued high unemployment, it has raised rents by more than 20 percent since 2008!

Here are some points to make while testifying at the public hearings:

  • Begin by introducing yourself and giving personal details—what neighborhood you live in, how long you have lived in your apartment, how you make a living, if you have children. It is important to show the RGB that rent-stabilized tenants are a diverse group.
  • Talk about the economic hardships you’re facing. Do you live on a fixed income? Have you lost your job? Are you are supporting your children or other members of your household? Are you are working two or more jobs in order to make ends meet?
  • The RGB should consider the incredible hardship that any increase at all will cause for many low- and moderate-income tenants, whose incomes have not kept up with the cost of living—and especially with rising rents. For example, the smallest rent increase the board has ever voted, 2 percent for one year and 4 percent for two, is twice as much as the raise city teachers and transit workers just got.

 

Why Landlords Don’t Deserve More Rent

Owners should bear their fair share of the economic burden in this city because their profits are increasing, even since the recession began in 2008. Landlords’ average net operating income—what they receive after they have paid off expenses—increased throughout the city by 9.6 percent in 2012, the eighth straight year they have seen profits grow. In 2011, it went up by 5.6 percent. 

  • In Manhattan, this means landlords brought in an average NOI of $704 every month from each rent-stabilized apartment they own. 
  • In Queens, they got an average NOI of $372 every month from each rent-stabilized apartment they own.
  • In Brooklyn, they got an average NOI of $357 every month from each rent-stabilized apartment they own.
  • In Staten Island, they got an average NOI of $344 every month from each rent-stabilized apartment they own.
  • In the Bronx, they got an average NOI of $251 every month from each rent-stabilized apartment they own.

 

Other issues to mention:

  • Are there many tenants in your building paying the full market-rate rent? Is there a commercial unit, such as a store? If so, emphasize that your landlord has other sources of income than the rent from rent-stabilized units.
  • Is there a high turnover rate in your building? If so, emphasize that your landlord receives large rent increases each time there is a vacancy.
  • The RGB’s increases are not the only means by which rent-stabilized rents go up. Landlords also raise rents through Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) increases.
  • If you have received an MCI increase over the past 10 years or so, talk about how your rent has increased more than the RGB guidelines. For example, if you received an MCI last year and signed a two-year lease, your rent would have increased by 13.75 percent—the RGB guideline of 7.75 percent and the 6 percent allowed for MCIs. Talk about how these permanent rent increases affect your ability to pay your rent.
  • If you moved into your apartment less than a few years ago, did your landlord claim a vacancy increase or an Individual Apartment Improvement increase before you moved in? That means they’ve raised your rent by far more than the RGB guidelines would normally allow.

 

How Rent Increases Affect You

  • Compare the increases your landlord has received to the increases you have received in income. How much was your rent ten years ago, and how much is it now? How much was your income ten years ago, and how much is it now? For example, say “In 2004, my rent was ___, now it is ____. In 2004, my income was ___, now it’s ___.” 
  • If you are now spending more than 30 percent of your income on rent, that is more than what the federal government defines as a hardship for tenants. Make sure you include that fact in your testimony. Today, half of rent-stabilized tenants are paying more than about 35 percent of their income in rent. Almost a third are paying more than half of theirs. 

Predatory Equity: If you know for sure that your building’s owner is a predatory-equity landlord who has overpaid for your building and is actively seeking to drive tenants out and raise rents high enough to get the apartments deregulated, include this in your testimony. 

 

For more information or to sign up to testify, go to www.nycrgb.org/html/about/meetings.html, or contact Met Council, http://www.metcouncilonhousing.org/