From the Field: New York State Legislators Pass ‘Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019’

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the “Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019,” the strongest law protecting tenants in the state’s history, on June 14. The law permanently closes loopholes in New York’s rent-stabilization system, allows the system to expand to the entire state, and offers eviction protections to renters and manufactured-housing residents everywhere in New York.

NLIHC state partner New York State Tenants & Neighbors as part of the Housing Justice for All Campaign organized, marched, and lobbied to guarantee the state’s expiring rent-stabilization laws would be replaced by stronger protections for tenants. 

Finding affordable housing in New York has long been difficult, despite the development of new multifamily homes. Loopholes in previous laws enabled landlords to discontinue rent regulation in their apartments, resulting in the loss of 300,000 affordable, rent-stabilized homes, while the cost of living has far outpaced residents’ ability to pay rising rents. Renters’ housing cost burdens throughout New York State are high, and gentrification with the displacement of long-term residents is growing in many communities due to the lack of affordable housing options in those communities.

Housing Justice for All campaign activists, including staff from Tenant & Neighbors and several other housing- justice organizations, strongly advocated for new rent regulations. They marched in the streets, met with city councils across the state urging them to pass resolutions supporting new rent regulations, called on key political leaders to sign onto the full slate of Housing Justice for All legislation sponsored by Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward-Cousins, and visited the capitol every Tuesday to lobby the legislature to pass the legislation. Housing Justice for All advocates also delivered a pro-renter petition with 3,000 signatures to Governor Cuomo.  

The “Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019” does the following:

  • Extends rent regulation laws and makes them permanent.
  • Expands the “Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974” across New York State, allowing all localities that fit certain criteria for rent stabilization to opt-in.
  • Repeals high-rent and high-income “decontrol” statutes that allowed units to be deregulated upon vacancy if the rent reaches a maximum threshold.
  • Allows preferential rents to be permanent for the life of the tenancy. This means the property owner cannot discontinue preferential rents (rents below the legal regulated rent) for tenants upon lease renewals. Landlords can charge any rent up to the full legal regulated rent once the tenant vacates the home only if the tenant did not vacate because of the landlord’s failure to maintain the apartment.
  • Repeals vacancy and longevity bonuses. The statutory vacancy bonus allowed landlords of rent-regulated units to collect an automatic increase in rent up to 20% upon vacancy. The vacancy longevity bonus allowed landlords of rent-regulated units that had not claimed a vacancy increase in over eight years to collect an additional increase.
  • Reforms the system of overcharge complaints that previously allowed landlords to get away with fraud if the tenant did not complain quickly enough, and it extends the four-year “look-back” rule to six years. This extends the statute of limitation for when tenants can claim their landlord has overcharged them for rent; they can file such a claim on rents up to six years prior to their current lease year.
  • Reforms and caps Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) increases.
  • Establishes stronger tenant protections statewide. Landlords cannot evict tenants for making good-faith complaints to them about violating the warranty of habitability. Security deposits are limited to one month’s rent and the eviction process was extended to give the tenant more time to pay rent and find a new home.
  • Establishes protections for mobile- and manufactured-home tenants. It limits rent increases, establishes rent-to-own regulations to protect mobile- and manufactured-home tenants, and strengthens protections against evictions from parks for the purpose of changing land use.

Delsenia Glover, director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors and a spokesperson for the Housing Justice for All Campaign, said she is “thrilled and honored to be at the helm of this great organization to witness this historic legislation to protect rent-regulated tenants, including laws which do not sunset!”

“This bill is a huge step forward,” said Ms. Glover, “in reversing decades of weakening amendments to the laws that govern rent regulation in New York state, like ending vacancy decontrol, vacancy bonuses, making preferential rents permanent, expansion of the ‘Emergency Tenant Protection Act,’ and moderating MCI’s and IAI’s. This is the culmination of years of tenant activism and advocacy, and a great day for all New York. We applaud Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for this courageous and necessary piece of legislation that will save communities across the state, particularly communities of color, and save many from homelessness caused by escalating rents.”

To learn more about the “Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019,” contact Delsenia Glover at: [email protected] or 212-608-4320 ext. 400