Resurrecting the Rent Strike Law
University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change (forthcoming).
40 Pages Posted: 6 May 2022 Last revised: 28 Aug 2022
Date Written: March 25, 2022
In the winter of 1963 and 1964, the mass uprising of rent striking tenants in New York City provoked the passage of the Rent Strike Law, a private right of action for organized tenants in degrading buildings to remove their landlord from control of the property and appoint a rental receiver in their place. In the ensuing decades, the Rent Strike Law would become a critical tool for stabilizing neglected properties and converting them into social housing, which preserves affordability, social equality, and democratic resident control. Today, the Rent Strike Law, now commonly referred to as Article 7-A, has fallen into disuse within the context of New York City’s speculative multi-family real estate market. Meanwhile, tenants living in precarious housing elsewhere in New York State lack access to the law. This Article examines the remedial framework available to tenants in New York State—who, excluded from the Rent Strike Law, lack sufficient tools to win repairs and stabilize neglected properties—to illustrate the continued value of this law in New York City and argue for its extension across the State. This Article further demonstrates how the Rent Strike Law was employed historically to take social ownership of neglected properties. This Article closes with policy proposals that will enable organized tenants to once again leverage the Rent Strike Law for its historical dual purposes of winning repairs and converting neglected properties into social housing.
Keywords: landlord-tenant, housing, access to justice, code enforcement, receivership, social housing, community land trust, land bank
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