Sad But Dependable News for the Bald from Washington

We are sorry to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari in Harmon v. Kimmel, No. 11-496, a truly wretched rent control case from New York. What makes this case truly bad is that rent control — i.e., the regulation ostensibly limiting the amount of rents that can be charged to tenants occupying the rented premises — was almost incidental to the real problem in this case. Here, the New York city “rent control” ordinance also provides that the tenant can stay on for an unlimited pertiod of time, and that upon his demise he can leave his right to occupy the rented premises at the controlled rent to his heirs. Thus, the ostensible “rent control” ordinance is not only a taking of the landlord’s right to receive the same rents that are received by owners of unregulated rental properties, but actually an expropriation of the landlord’s right of reversion at the end of the lease. And if that isn’t a de facto taking of a landlord’s property interest — the reversion — we would like to know what is.

What made the Harmon case noteworthy was that when the landlord filed his petition for certiorari, the city didn’t even bother to respond. But to everyone’s surprise, the Court odered the city to file a response, an event which generated a big deal foofaraw among takings mavens who rationally believed that this indicated that the court (or at least one or more Justices) were treating this petition seriously and needed time to reflect on it. Then, to add to the feeling of anticipation, the court passed over this petition during the regularly scheduled conference, and postponed its consideration from April 13th to April 20th. What did all that mean? Nothing, as it turned out. Certiorari was denied with none of the Justices voting in favor of granting it. Maybe the clerk charged with preparing the conference memo was out with a cold. Who knows?

So the judicial jihad against American owners of private property goes on.

Follow up. For the New York Times take on this case and the denial of certiorari, see Adam Liptak, U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Suit Challeging the Rent Stabilization Law, N.Y. Times, April 23, 2012 — click here.

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