New York’s Small Landlords Protest for the Right to Exclude

Landlords with fewer properties say rent stabilization, eviction moratoriums, and rising costs for repairs and maintenance are making it impossible for them to keep their businesses going.

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 17, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Multicolored four-story New York City buildings with storefronts on ground floor

Andrew F. Kazmierski / New York City apartment buildings

An increasingly vocal new political identity is emerging among New York City property owners, writes Molly Osberg in Curbed: the “underdog landlord,” the small-scale property owners who feel cheated by renter protections and ignored by the city.

“In the nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of tenants have engaged in rent strikes, whether declared or de facto, while membership in tenant unions and building associations ballooned. Somewhere in all of this tension between renters and owners, more landlords began to publicly embrace the language of a protected class being ignored, or worse, by its elected officials.”

According to Osberg, “An estimated 28 percent of New York City’s 2.3 million rental units are held by landlords who own fewer than five properties, which is what passes for a mom-and-pop shop in a city of megadevelopers and private-equity ownership.” Landlords have organized online campaigns and protests and filed lawsuits to challenge New York renter protection laws, arguing that they violate their Fifth Amendment rights and essentially constitute a taking of their property, forcing them to continue renting when they don’t want or can't afford to.

Tenant advocates say these arguments are disingenuous, and that landlords often fail to reinvest in fixing aging buildings, opting instead to buy more properties and earn passive income. As Osberg explains, “Small property owners are a shrinking minority in an economy that favors the deep-pocketed and in a landscape where buying and renting property is as much about securing cyclical returns on investment as providing a stable place to live.”

Osberg’s article outlines the landlords’ concerns and the growing movement to ensure what they see as their constitutional rights via activism and legal actions.

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