Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rent control to be argued before the Supreme Court?

While rent control laws do not affect Central Pennsylvania at this time, investors should take note of a New York case that may shortly be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. An article by Professor Richard Epstein from earlier this year identifies a pending challenge to rent control in which the Supreme Court has invited responses from New York City and the tenants directly affected:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia exposed the deeply antidemocratic nature of rent control in Pennell v. City of San Jose (1988). If the government thinks some high social end is served by allowing tenants to sit on someone else's property in perpetuity, then it should use public funds, after democratic deliberation, to buy or lease the premises for market value which it can then lease out to particular tenants. The correct way to handle this issue, he wrote, is by "the distribution to such persons of funds raised from the public at large through taxes," and not to use "the occasion of rent regulation to establish a welfare program privately funded by" landlords.

Mr. Harmon's grievance should resonate on social as well as personal grounds. Rent control and rent stabilization are inimical to the long-term health of New York City. Ordinary tenants paying market rents contribute their fair share to the public treasury. By contrast, rent-controlled tenants on lifetime leases who have a specially privileged legal status are a constant drain on the community, discouraging investment in residential rental real estate by posing a persistent if inchoate threat of subjecting future properties to rent control.
Hoover Daily Report, 1-4-2012