World and Nation

Supreme court lets rent stabilization law stand

WASHINGTON — Tenants in nearly one million apartments subject to New York City’s rent regulations could breathe a sigh of relief Monday. The U.S. Supreme Court, after indicating it might be interested in hearing a challenge to the regulations, decided to let them stand.

As is customary when the court declines to hear a case, the justices gave no reasons. There were no published dissents. Perhaps one in 100 petitions seeking review by the court is granted, meaning that the decision not to hear the case sent no larger message.

The challenge to the rent law was brought by James D. Harmon Jr. and Jeanne Harmon, the owners of a five-story brownstone near Central Park. They live on the lower floors and rent out the six apartments, two to a floor, above them.

Three of those apartments are subject to New York’s rent-stabilization regulations, under which the government sets maximum permissible rent increases and generally allows tenants to renew their leases indefinitely.

According to the Harmons’ lawsuit, filed in 2008, the tenants in the rent-stabilized units pay around $1,000 a month, or about 60 percent below the market rate.

The suit did not directly challenge the rent control law, an older system that applies to far fewer tenants. The Harmons said that requiring them to accept below-market rents amounted to an unconstitutional taking of their property.

“We still believe that the Constitution does not allow the government to force us to take strangers into our home at our expense for life,” Harmon said in a statement issued after the court turned down the case Monday. “Even our grandchildren have been barred from living with us. That is not our America.”

David Mlotok, a tenant in one of the Harmons’ regulated apartments since 1976, said in an email, “Obviously I’m relieved by the decision.”

A lawyer for the city, Alan Krams, said it was pleased with the ruling.

“Rent regulation in New York City has a long history,” he said in a statement, “and the court properly left it to elected state and city officials to decide its future.”

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York ruled against the Harmons. In an unsigned summary order, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said the couple knew what they were getting into when they acquired the building.

It was that decision that the Supreme Court declined to consider.