When Horizon, a large Chicago apartment building manager locked in a legal dispute with one of its tenants, chose to sue her over a disparaging tweet a few years back (more), one of the owning family’s members was quoted in the press as saying that “the suit was warranted and that Horizon is ‘a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization,'” a comment for which the company subsequently apologized. You’ll never believe what happened next…
Horror story in Queens points up flaws of the city’s deed-transfer system, and also of its pro-tenant housing court regime: “After Darrell Beatty failed to appear in August, a judge approved an eviction, but it was stayed last week when Beatty claimed he had health problems.” [New York Post]
A new paper estimates that Massachusetts voters’ decision to end rent control added $2 billion to the value of Cambridge, Mass. residential housing stock over 10 years. While some of this represents the improved worth of rental property whose value had been artificially suppressed by the previous law, much of it reflects improvements in the value of other, nearby property that had never been under rent control, as increased rates of renovation and improvement made whole neighborhoods more desirable. “In net, our estimates imply that more than half (55 percent) of the capitalized cost of rent control was borne by owners of never-controlled properties, illustrating both the importance of spillovers in housing markets and the potential unintended side effects of price ceilings.” [David H. Autor, Christopher J. Palmer and Parag A. Pathak, Cato Research Briefs in Economic Policy]
It happened on AirBnB, the lodging-sharing service: “A woman rented her 600-square-foot Palm Springs, California, condo to someone for a little over a month, and now she says the guy won’t leave and is threatening to sue her.” [Business Insider, ABA Journal] For the case of the nanny who declined to leave her in-home living quarters after a falling out with the family that hired her, see this post last month. A February post raised the question of whether AirBnB visitors staying in units in San Francisco, a city with notably pro-tenant housing laws, might be able to dig in after a period much shorter than 30 days, the span that triggers tenancy status under general California law.
NYC’s rent control laws “disproportionately benefit the well-to-do, who are more likely than the poor to remain for decades in apartments that become increasingly underpriced as the years go by. … The 220 affordable apartments [in a new West Side development responsive to subsidy incentives] will be split up among households of four earning no less than $50,300 and no more than $193,000 per year —- or nearly four times New York City’s median household income.” [Jim Epstein, Reason]
Upland, Calif.: “A California family is stumped about what to do with a live-in nanny they say refuses to work, refuses to be fired and refuses to leave. In fact, Marcella Bracamonte claims that the nanny, Diane Stretton, has threatened to sue the family for wrongful firing and elder abuse.” Stretton’s hiring agreement with the Bracamontes entitles her to room and board as part of her compensation, but she now indicates that she is suffering a disability and stays mostly in her room, the couple says. After the dispute arose the Bracamontes discovered that Stretton is on the state vexatious-litigants list and has been involved in at least 36 lawsuits; police say because Stretton is in residence it is a civil matter, but a judge threw out the couple’s initial eviction attempt, saying they had not filled out a quit notice correctly. [ABC News, auto-plays video ad; CBS Los Angeles] In September of last year, whether coincidentally or not, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the so-called California Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, affording domestic workers substantially more legal leverage in disputes with their employers. [SCPR] (& Scott Greenfield, with commenters)
New York City’s homeowner registration requirements — a paperwork stage distinct from any rent regulation as such — are burdensome enough that neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor Public Advocate Letitia James have succeeded in complying for the properties they own themselves. The registration requirement “also drives out smaller landlords, and provides a convenient way for bad tenants to get away without paying rent.” [DNAInfo New York, NY Renters Alliance via Future of Capitalism]
Although we call it “rent control,” the key thing it controls is often not so much what you can charge for a lodging as whether you can ever reclaim it. This recluse successfully held out for $17 million to relinquish his moldy, squalid rented lodging at what is now 15 Central Park West. [New York Post]
P.S. But at least the U.N. likes the idea. While on the subject of legal insanity in NYC real estate: Andrew Rice, New York mag, “Why Run a Slum If You Can Make More Money Housing the Homeless?” I wrote about the epic New York City homeless-rights litigation in Schools for Misrule, and more links are here.
Some “affordable housing”/squatting enthusiasts in San Francisco are encouraging the stratagem of renting someone’s apartment for a night or two on AirBnB, declining to leave, and settling in for what might prove a prolonged process of eviction under the city’s highly pro-tenant landlord-tenant laws. [@marketurbanism]
Judge Frank Nervo in Manhattan used phrases like “simply intolerable” and “gross overreaching” in denying Mayer Brown’s “request for more than $126,000 in attorneys’ fees in a lawsuit over a $6,400 security deposit. Judge Nervo added that the firm spent ‘a grossly unnecessary amount of time’ on simple tasks, including ‘research on the most basic and banal legal principles.'” [Clozel v. Jalisi, Above the Law]
London real estate values have soared, and a furor has broken out on the Left over one large landlord’s announcement that it no longer welcomes government-assisted tenants (related story on U.S. Section 8). According to at least one professor of law, international human rights treaties require the United Kingdom to take affordable housing steps [Aoife Nolan, HuffPo U.K.] Good to be aware of these things before we start ratifying any more of them…
Suit charges Brooklyn woman covered up aunt’s death so as to live in rent-stabilized apartment [NYPost]
A South Carolina jury awarded the default judgment against a now-defunct property management firm that had called with an eviction threat over two-months’-behind rent; the tenant in a deposition “said she had asked the manager to refrain from speaking with her mother because of her fragile health.” [Charleston Post and Courier]
Douglas Hsiao in the Washington Post on the legal hazards of renting out an apartment under the laws of Washington, D.C., which make it suspect for a landlord to put ceilings on the number of tenants (that might constitute “family discrimination”) or inquire into whether an applicant is earning money at a legal trade (“source of income” discrimination):
And finally, this: I asked my property manager whether we could meet with potential tenants and interview them. She told me that, as a general rule, she does not like to meet any potential tenants. Why? Because if you never meet them, you cannot be accused of discriminating against them. It would be funny if it were not so Kafkaesque.