ON THE BOARD
The Rent Guidelines
Board (also referred to herein as the "Board" or the "RGB") is a local
body with a mandate in both state and local law to investigate conditions
within the residential real estate industry and to establish fair rent
adjustments for rent stabilized units. Under the Rent Stabilization Law
(section 26-510) the Board is charged with establishing annual guidelines
following a review of (1) the economic condition of the residential real
estate industry in New York City including such factors as the prevailing
and projected (i) real estate taxes and sewer and water rates, (ii) gross
operating maintenance costs (including insurance rates, governmental
fees, cost of fuel and labor costs), (iii) costs and availability of
financing (including effective rates of interest), (iv) over-all supply
of housing accommodations and over-all vacancy rates, (2) relevant data
from the current and projected cost of living indices for the affected
area, and (3) such other data as may be made available to it.
of the Board, Terms of Office, Eligibility for Appointment
The RGB consists
of nine members, all of whom are appointed by the Mayor. Two members
are appointed to represent tenant interests. One of these serves a two-year
term, and the other a three-year term. Two members are appointed to represent
owner interests. Like the tenant members, one serves a two-year term,
and the other a three-year term. Five members (including the chairperson)
are appointed to represent the general public. One of these serves a
two-year term, another a three-year term and two serve four-year terms.
The chairperson serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. The complete text
of the law governing Board appointments, powers and duties is set forth
in Appendix A. A complete listing of all
members serving on the Rent Guidelines Board since 1969 and their terms
of office is included in Appendix B.
are required to be residents of the City and must remain residents during
their period of service. Each public member must have had at least five
years experience in either finance, economics or housing. No member may
be an employee or officer in any state or municipal rent regulation agency.
Nor can any member own or manage rental property affected by the Board's
orders or be an officer in any owner or tenant organization. The chairperson
may hold no other public office. All members take an oath of office.8 New
members are expected to submit a written statement attesting to their
compliance with the above eligibility requirements upon appointment.
A sample copy of the oath and such statement is annexed hereto as Appendices
D and D1 respectively. Each prospective member of the Board is also
subject to a background investigation by the Department of Investigation
prior to appointment.
A member may
remain on the Board after the expiration of his or her term until a qualified
new member is appointed. The Mayor is required to fill any vacancy which
may occur by reason of death, resignation or otherwise, in a manner consistent
with the original appointment. A member may be removed by the Mayor for
cause, but not without an opportunity to be heard in person or by counsel.
At least ten days notice to the member is required prior to such a hearing.
of Interest & Financial Disclosure
members and staff are required to comply with the ethics provisions contained
in chapter 68 of the New York City Charter along with the rules and opinions
of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board. Under the conflicts
of interest rules members of the Board and staff are prohibited from
engaging in certain specified activities which generally concern misuse
of authority for personal gain or practices which directly or indirectly
conflict with official duties. The Charter also contains many post-employment
members are "public servants" but not "regular employees" and because
the agency they serve is the Rent Guidelines Board and not the executive
branch of city government, the application of certain of the rules is
limited. For example, a "regular employee" is prohibited from having
a business interest in a firm that has business dealings with any
agency of the City, while Board members may not have an interest
in a firm that has business dealings with "the agency served by
the public servant" -- a less restrictive rule. To illustrate, an RGB
employee may not have a business interest in a vendor that supplies and
services copying machines to any city agency,9 but
this would not create a conflict for an RGB member so long as the RGB
did not utilize that vendor's services. In any event, it is best to consult
with the Executive Director if a "conflicts" question arises.
will be referred directly to the Conflicts of Interest Board. A copy
of the relevant provisions of the City Charter dealing with conflicts
of interest is contained in Appendix E. All
Board members and staff are expected to be familiar with these provisions.
and during each year of service, Board members are required to complete
a financial disclosure statement. The general purpose of this statement
is to ensure that Board members do not hold any interests which conflict
with their duties as Board members or which would otherwise create an
appearance of impropriety. A sample copy of the first page of the Conflicts
of Interest Board's Financial Disclosure form is included herein as Appendix
summary notes on some of the matters that may arise in connection with
service as a Board member or employee:
No public servant may accept a gift with a cumulative value of $50
or more in a 12 month period from a person or firm doing business with
the City. There are exceptions to this rule such as gifts exchanged
between co-workers or relatives, wedding gifts or meals given at a
function where you represent the Board.
This rule only applies to the Board's staff members who are "regular
employees." RGB staff may not work for a company that has business
with the City. In addition, any such outside work must be on the employee's
own time and may not involve the use of city resources, confidential
information or the use of the employee's official position.
INTERESTS: The Rent Stabilization Law itself prohibits Board members
from having an ownership interest in property subject to the Board's
orders. Notably, there appears to be no restriction on continuing as
a tenant in a rent stabilized apartment while serving on the Board.
ACTIVITIES: All political activities must be performed on the member
or employee's own time. Members and staff may not use a city letterhead,
supplies, equipment or personnel while carrying out such activities.
They may not coerce or induce fellow employees to participate in political
activities. Managers may not even ask subordinates to participate in
or contribute to a campaign.
RESTRICTIONS: RGB staff and members may not appear before the RGB for
a period of at least one year after leaving service. They may not divulge
confidential information obtained while in the Board's employ. They
may never work on a particular matter or project they were directly
involved in while employed by the City. Notably, each new guideline
is considered a separate and distinct matter, so it would be unusual
for this latter conflict to arise.
advisory opinions and pamphlets on these topics and others are available
to Board members on request. Again, if there is any uncertainty, it is
always best to seek a ruling.
It may be
useful to note that the Conflicts of Interest Board has the authority,
upon the making of certain findings, to grant waivers and issue orders
allowing public servants to hold positions, or maintain ownership interests,
otherwise prohibited by the Charter.
compensated at a rate of one hundred dollars per day for up to twenty-five
days per year. The chairperson receives one hundred twenty-five dollars
per day for up to fifty days per year. This rate of compensation has
remained unchanged since 1969.
are compensated on a "per diem" basis although this term has never been
precisely defined. By convention each Board meeting counts as at least
one day of service. Board meetings which exceed seven hours (as the Board's
public hearings often will) may qualify for additional per diem payments.
For example, a twelve-hour meeting would qualify for two per diem payments.
compensation for attending a meeting of the Rent Guidelines Board, the
member must sign the Rent Guidelines Board sign-in sheet circulated by
the Office Manager at the meeting. The city will then issue a check to
each member who attended the Board meeting. An example of the sign-in
sheet is included herein as Appendix D3.
practice, all other Board activities which cumulatively exceed five hours
shall count as one per diem. These activities are compensated by what
are known as "non-public" per diems. Such activities may include individual
meetings with staff or attendance at briefings by government officials
or housing experts, a review of staff reports or meetings with constituent
groups (e.g., tenant or owner advocates).
If a Board
member attends a briefing directly related to the Board's work (other
than a Board meeting), or meets with a constituent group, or conferences
with staff, a signed and dated form describing the date, duration, location
and purpose of the qualifying activity should be forwarded to the Executive
Director to ensure compensation. Board members may also list the time
needed to review each of the many (often time consuming) reports issued
in conjunction with Board meetings. A copy of an RGB per diem payment
requisition form is included herein as Appendix
D4. Note that non-public per diem requests are subject to review
and approval by the RGB Chair, and the Department of Housing Preservation
of the Board
In 1981, the
Board adopted a brief set of bylaws which largely reflect the statutory
provisions governing the Board's operations. The complete text of the
bylaws is contained in Appendix F. The
bylaws set forth the purpose and powers of the Board, qualifications
of members, role of the chairperson and compensation of members, all
in accordance with the Rent Stabilization Law. In addition, the composition
of the Board's staff is established and the chairperson is granted the
authority to modify this composition if the financial resources of the
Board permit such modification.
also reflect the requirements for annual public meetings and hearings
contained in the Rent Stabilization Law. In addition, the chairperson
is granted authority to call special meetings for any purpose consistent
with the Board's mandate. All meetings must take place within the City
of New York.10 At least
five members must be present before a meeting may begin and five supporting
votes are needed for the Board to exercise its guideline setting authority.
Thus, if only seven members attend a meeting, a simple majority of four
votes is inadequate for the Board to exercise its guideline setting authority.
By convention, at least one tenant and one owner representative should
be present before any meeting proceeds. The order of business at each
meeting is determined by the chairperson, but the order of business may
be changed by vote of a majority of the members present. Robert's
Rules of Order govern the proceedings except as to those matters
addressed directly in the bylaws.
Rent Guidelines Board Staff & Use of Consultants
Prior to 1980
the Board relied upon staff provided by the New York City Department
of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") for its administrative
support. In that year the City Council adopted Local Law 11 (copy annexed
in Appendix A1), designating the chairperson
as chief administrative officer of the Board, and permitting him or her
to "employ, assign and supervise the employees of the rent guidelines
board and enter into contracts for consultant services". This legislation
appears to have been, in part, in response to public criticism of the
practice of borrowing staff from "other agencies to which staff members
owe their primary obligations."11
In each succeeding
year, the Board has received an allocation of funds through a contract
with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD") to
hire staff and provide for office expenses. Thus, in terms of its funding,
the Board's staff operates through negotiation by its Chair of annual
terms agreed upon with HPD.
the 1980's the Board had not exercised its power under Local Law 11 to
directly enter into consulting agreements itself. The annual price index
studies and other projects had been procured for the Board through contracts
let by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. For a
time (1972-1978) these studies were funded in whole or in part by the
Rent Stabilization Association, an owners advocacy group. The funding
history of this important contract is contained in Appendix
G. Since 1990 the Board has exercised full control over the scope
of all consulting services as well as the choice of consultants.
of the City Charter now requires a Board resolution when the Chairperson
performs certain contract oversight functions. A resolution of this type
which authorizes the Chairperson to act on behalf of the Board in contract
matters was adopted on February 13, 1991.12
current full-time staff of six includes an executive director, a senior
research associate, two research associates, an office manager, and a
public information assistant. In addition to providing administrative
support for the Board during its annual deliberations, the staff is engaged
year round in research efforts and in providing information to the public
on housing questions. The staff fields hundreds of calls per month from
tenants and owners with housing and rent related questions. The Office
of Corporation Counsel presently serves the function of legal counsel.
director coordinates meetings, maintains Board communications and media
relations, administers contracts, oversees procurement, supervises the
staff, and works with the City's Corporation Counsel to advise the Board
on all matters concerning litigation, new legislation, and the Board's
lawful functions. The executive director also oversees the development
and production of the information and analysis necessary for the Board
to conduct its annual review of the conditions of the residential real
estate industry. Finally, the executive director advises other public
agencies on Board related matters and maintains the Board's internet
staff often consults with the State Division of Housing and Community
Renewal, the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
and the Office of the Corporation Counsel, it is an independent staff,
directly responsible only to the chairperson and the Board itself. The
Board is solely responsible for the staff's research projects and is
fully accountable for the decisions it makes based on the staff's research
Board members and staff are covered by section 50-k of the General Municipal
Law. Consequently, they are entitled to be represented by the City's
Corporation Counsel and to be indemnified for acts occurring within the
scope of their public service.
copy of the staff's RGB Employee Manual and office rules is included
herein as Appendix I.
Board's Web Site: http://www.housingnyc.com
In 1996 the
Rent Guidelines Board launched the City's first web site. Although it
received limited use at that time, by April of 2000, the site was receiving
well over 300,000 "hits" per month.
the Board's site offers a variety of services. It includes all of the
Board's major studies issued since 1995, along with data from the triennial
Housing and Vacancy Surveys. The site also includes most of the Board's
past rent orders. One highly popular feature is the "Apartment Guide" which
offers advice and assistance to apartment hunters. Another widely used
section is the section on frequently asked questions ("FAQ").
The site also
includes a variety of publication reprints such as the Attorney General's
Landlord/Tenant Guide; the New York City Housing Maintenance Code; A
Tenant's Guide to Housing Court; a variety of Fact Sheets from the New
York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal; and the full text
of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997.
Status of the Board
noted, the Board is a local body with a mandate in both state and local
law to investigate the conditions of the residential real estate industry
and establish rent adjustments for rent stabilized units. Because it
is not a state agency, it is not subject to the provisions of the State
Administrative Procedure Act. It is, however, subject to the City Administrative
Procedure Act. It is also subject to the Open Meetings Law and other
requirements governing the process by which it conducts its business.
These procedural requirements are discussed here.
is a quasi-legislative body without judicial or executive authority.
Its authority to make rent adjustments after reviewing certain mandated
considerations is very broad. But it has no power to enforce its orders
or to penalize violators. Enforcement authority for exceeding the Board's
orders rests with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal
and the courts (usually the Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City
of New York). There is no pro-active review of rental charges by the
DHCR to achieve compliance with the Board's orders. Rent overcharge proceedings
are initiated by individual tenants either by filing a complaint with
the DHCR or by raising an overcharge claim in the courts.
cannot act outside of its rent-setting jurisdiction, nor can it adopt
rent orders which are unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. The Board's
orders must be justified in terms of the economic criteria set forth
in the Rent Stabilization Law. That criteria is fully set forth in the
law itself which is contained in section 26-510(b) of the Rent Stabilization
Law, contained in Appendix A. The Board
may not abdicate its regulatory authority over the rent stabilized housing
stock nor any part of it; only the City Council may permit such deregulation,
and then only after a public hearing in accordance with section 3(b)
of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (hereafter "ETPA").
the Board's investigative functions, all City and State agencies are
required to cooperate with the Board by responding to all reasonable
requests for information and assistance.13
History of the Board and the Rent Regulation System>>
Introduction to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board
Table of Contents
of the above requirements for Board membership are contained in section
26-510(a) of the New York City Administrative Code with the exception
of the residency requirements which can be found in sections 3 and 30
of the Public Officers Law, see Appendix C.
The requirement of execution and filing of an oath of office is included
in section 10 of the Public Officers Law. The failure to file such oath
within 30 days will create a vacancy in the office as per section 30(1)(h)
of the Public Officers Law.
are exceptions to this restriction. For example, it may be permissible
for an employee to own stock in a publicly traded business (e.g., Xerox,
Canon or Sharp) which does business with the city.
full discussion concerning the Board's meetings and hearings is provided
in the section on Meetings, Hearings and Administrative
Coalition against Rent Increase Passalongs v. Rent Guidelines Board,
422 N.Y.S. 2nd 660, n.1 (Sup. Ct. NY Co.1979), 104 Misc.2d 101, affd,
176 AD2d 1043 (1st Dept. 1980).
full text of the resolution is included in Appendix
ETPA, L. 1974, c.576, 4.