If Rangel's Four Apartments Counted As One…

In his colorful response today to a Times story on the four rent-stabilized apartments he rents, Representative Charles Rangel said repeatedly (as captured in video by The Observer’s Azi Paybarah) that the below-market-rate apartments are not a gift (which would need to be reported per campaign finance law).

“If you’re paying the legal rent, and without the law, the rent could be higher, just what school did you go to that you could misinterpret that as a gift,” he said to the Times’ Jeremy Peters. “They didn’t give me anything, I’m paying the highest legal rent I can.”

Maybe.

Unanswered questions in this Rangel rent-stabilization saga-to-be are many, but based on New York’s arcane, sometimes-twisted rent-stabilization laws, here’s one thought of how the apartments could be construed as a gift:

Mr. Rangel uses three of his four rent-stabilized apartments as one interconnected unit. Based on vacancy decontrol law, a landlord can take an apartment out of rent stabilization when the tenant makes more than $175,000 a year two years in a row and the apartment rents for more than $2,000 a month, regardless of size.

Each of his three apartments rents for less than $2,000 a month individually, but together, they rent for more than $3,200 a month, according to The Times. If indeed they are considered one unit, as Mr. Rangel seems to treat them, it certainly seems within the spirit of the law that the landlord would be able to take them out of rent stabilization. However, the landlord is not forced to take an apartment out of rent stabilization, so it’s unclear to us, for now, whether that would constitute a gift.

Also, the seemingly larger question is whether someone is allowed to have four rent-stabilized apartments given that the law requires that each apartment be used as a primary residence.