DHCR Pass-On Regulations Upheld
LVT Number: 8523
Facts: In 1989, the DHCR amended rent regulations to expand the definition of ``family members'' who were entitled to stay in apartments upon tenant's death or departure. Under prior regulations, family members included only a specific list of persons related by blood or marriage, who'd lived in the apartment either for two years before tenant died or, in the case of tenant who moved out, since the beginning of the tenancy or the beginning of the relationship. The new regulations expanded the definition of family members to include anyone who lived with tenant in a relationship showing emotional and financial commitment and interdependence. A sexual relationship wasn't required. The regulations listed a number of factors that would show whether such a relationship existed. And, the new regulations say that, whether tenant died or moved out, a remaining family member simply must prove that he lived in the apartment with tenant for two years (one year where tenant was elderly or disabled), he lived with tenant since the beginning of the tenancy, or he lived with tenant since the beginning of the relationship. The Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) challenged the regulations, claiming they were unconstitutional and invalid. The trial court and appeals court ruled against RSA, finding that the DHCR had the authority to issue the regulations and that the regulations advanced a legitimate governmental interest. RSA appealed. Court: RSA loses. First, the DHCR didn't overstep its authority in issuing the regulations. The DHCR has technical competence in rent regulation matters, and had properly expanded the group of people protected by rent regulation---without singling out special interest groups. Second, the regulations are constitutional. They don't prevent landlords from evicting unsatisfactory tenants or converting rent-regulated property to other uses. And the fact that tenant and remaining family members may stay for an indefinite length of time doesn't mean they'll take landlords' property permanently. The court also ruled that the regulations don't prevent landlords from collecting rent guidelines increases, although RSA pointed out that the regulations do stop landlords from collecting vacancy increases. The court ruled that landlords were already barred from collecting vacancy increases from remaining family members. The expanded definition of family members served a valid government interest by protecting nontraditional families.
Rent Stabilization Association of New York City v. Higgins: NYLJ, p. 25, col. 1 (1/4/94) (Ct. App. NY; Kaye, CJ)