Tenant advocates in New York are advocating for passage of a statewide good-cause eviction bill (A.5573/S.1603) in the upcoming legislative session. The recent passage of similar measures in four upstate jurisdictions—Newburgh, Albany, Hudson, and Poughkeepsie—adds further momentum to the push for a statewide law.
The statewide legislation, introduced by State Senator Julia Salazar of Brooklyn and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter of Syracuse, would prevent no-fault evictions and establish a tenant’s right to an automatic lease renewal in most cases. Some circumstances would allow the landlord to evict a tenant due to major violations of a lease or failure to pay rent except in the case of a steep rent increase. The bill defines a steep rent increase to mean either a 3% increase or 150% of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is greater, unless major market changes or renovations justify such an increase. Salazar and Hunter introduced good-cause eviction bills in 2019 and 2021, but the bills were never brought to a vote. The pandemic’s impact on housing instability has reignited the push for the legislation.
The urgency to pass good-cause protections coincides with the upcoming expiration of New York State’s eviction moratorium on January 15, 2022. Even after the distribution of $2.2 billion in emergency rental assistance, an estimated 591,000 households in New York remain behind on rent, according to the National Equity Atlas, and nearly three-quarters are households of color. Only 2% of households with rental arrears have received aid from the program.
Many advocates, including NLIHC state partner Tenants & Neighbors, argue that the legislation will offer a more effective and stable solution than further extension of the eviction moratorium. The legislation would grant new protections to 1.6 million renter households in New York State, or nearly half the state’s renters. Unlike an eviction moratorium, good cause eviction legislation would protect renters from the large rent hikes—in some cases as high as 70%—that many New Yorkers are currently facing, as tenants would be able to challenge evictions in court if such exorbitant increases left them unable to pay. The New York City Council approved a nonbinding resolution on December 15 that calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass the bill.
According to City and State NY, Governor Kathy Hochul has not taken a position on the good-cause eviction bill, but the Governor has said she will announce further affordable housing plans in January. As regards the prospects of affordable housing legislation in the upcoming legislative session, Senator Salazar commented to City and State NY that she is “hopeful and encouraged” that the Hochul administration will prioritize housing needs.
Momentum for Salazar and Hunter’s good-cause eviction bill comes on the heels of major victories in upstate communities. On November 15, Poughkeepsie became the fourth jurisdiction in New York to pass such legislation, following the recent passage of similar measures in Newburgh, Albany, and Hudson. The legislation, which passed the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council on a 6-1 vote, defines “good cause” to include:
- Failing to pay rent in the absence of an “unconscionable” rent increase
- Violating a legal obligation of their tenancy
- Committing a nuisance or damaging property
- Permitting illegal activity
- Refusing the landlord access to the property to make repairs
- Refusing in bad faith a written lease that a landlord offers in good faith.
A landlord is also allowed to evict a tenant if they are seeking to reclaim the property for their own personal use. Although the legislation does not explicitly define an “unconscionable” rent increase, it suggests above 5% in a calendar year as an example.
Hudson’s newly enacted good-cause legislation includes even stronger protections than the measure passed in Poughkeepsie. Hudson will not allow landlords to evict tenants if the property is being sold; Mayor Kamal Johnson vetoed a previous version of the legislation that did not include this provision. Good-cause eviction laws in Newburgh, Albany, and Poughkeepsie do allow for eviction when the landlord sells a property. Like the statewide bill, the laws passed in Newburgh, Albany, and Poughkeepsie include language that allow for rent increases in the case of major market changes, but the legislation ultimately passed in Hudson does not include this exception.