This week, Tenant Tuesday activists turned the heat up for Albany Lawmakers ending the day with arrests and a statement of support from Senate Leader Andrew Stewart Cousins in favor of all 9 bills in the Universal Rent Control platform. However, there is only agreement with the Assembly on 8 bills.
On Wednesday, Leaders of the Legislature agreed to work on a rent reform package with the Governor. The most contentious issues of negotiation are expected to be around MCI and IAI programs. NYC’ Housing Commissioner Louise Carroll expressed support for reforming rather than eliminating these programs and committed to releasing a more concrete proposal for rent law reforms in her recent testimony to the Senate. Recommendations have not yet been shared publicly.
NYHC testified at the Assembly Hearings with tense questioning from housing committee members on our support for reforming rather than eliminating all incentives for owner investment. Our testimony submitted to the Senate is linked here. We wholeheartedly support expansion of protections for renters and expect that reforms enacted in June with help stem NYC’s affordable housing crisis.
Below is an overview of legislation under consideration and other housing bills.
Universal Rent Control Bills 1-8 (Supported by both Assembly & Senate Leadership)
- Ends vacancy decontrol. Repeals Deregulation Threshold Statute which allows landlords to permanently deregulate apartments once the rent reaches $2,733 a month and the current occupant leaves the unit.
- Reforms preferential rents. Rent Increases upon lease renewal would be based on the preferential rate which was charged to the tenant as opposed to the maximum legal regulated rent.
- Elimination of rent increases based on Major Capital Improvements (MCI).
- Repeals allowance for Individual Apartment Improvement rent increases.
- Repeal current vacancy bonus up to 20% and instead allows vacancy lease to be subject to Rent Guideline Board approved increase
- Provides statewide option for Expansion of Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) of 1974. Municipalities across New York State would then be able to opt into the system if it has declared a housing state of emergency, which is based on a vacancy rate of 5% or less. The Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 currently applies the rent and eviction regulation system to New York City and municipalities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester Counties.
- Capping Rent Control Increases at the lesser of 7.5% or equal to the average of the previous five RGB increases for one-year renewal leases.
- It would also prohibit fuel adjustment or pass-along increases for rent controlled tenants. Currently the cap is 7.5% per year.
- Extends from 4 to 6 years the statute of limitations for rent regulated tenants to file an overcharge complaint with a built-in exception clause to this rule, allowing the DHCR to consider a broader scope of rental history where necessary.
Universal Rent Control Bill 9 (supported by Senate Leadership)
- Prohibits landlords from taking any action to evict, fail to renew a lease, or otherwise seek to remove a tenant from housing accommodation except for “good cause” (applicable to all housing accommodations, except for owner-occupied premises with less than four units).
- Sets forth permissible grounds for the removal of tenants, including the failure to pay rent (unless as a result of an “unconscionable” rent increase, defined as an increase of more that 1.5 times the annual percentage change in the Consumer Price Index), the violation of a substantial obligation of the tenancy, committing or permitting a nuisance, permitting the premises to be used for an illegal purpose, or if, under certain conditions, the premises are to be personally occupied by the landlord or close relatives of the landlord as their primary residence.
- Creates a private right of action for tenants requires to surrender housing accommodations if a landlord makes a fraudulent statement regarding a proposed use of the housing accommodation for personal or family use.
- Provides that tenants’ rights to stay the issuance or execution of a warrant of eviction, so long as the tenant complies with the procedural requirements of said law.
Additional Bills Related to Affordable and/or Rent Regulated Housing (Supported by Assembly Leadership along with rent law reform package)
- Would require residential landlords to show good faith and mitigate damages to a tenant in cases where the tenant has to break a lease, only actual damages are recoverable.
- In any lease or rental agreement covering premises occupied for dwelling purposes, if a tenant vacates a premises in violation of the terms of the lease, the landlord shall, in good faith, take reasonable and customary actions to rent the premises at fair market value. If the landlord rents the premises at fair market value, the new tenant’s lease shall, once in effect, terminate the previous tenant’s lease and mitigate damages otherwise recoverable against the previous tenant because of such tenant’s vacating the premises. The burden of proof shall be on the party seeking to recover damages. Any provision in a lease that exempts a landlord’s duty to mitigate damages under this section shall be void as contrary to public policy.
- Would protect former Mitchell-Lama building tenants by requiring that their affordable housing units are covered by rent stabilization laws upon voluntary dissolution.
- In the event of a buy-out, existing tenants could face eviction if they cannot afford the new market-rate rents in these buildings. This legislation seeks to ensure that these tenants can continue to afford to live in their current apartments.
- Would ensure rent-regulated units leased by not-for-profits providing housing to vulnerable residents will remain regulated under the not-for-profit lease. It also clarifies that the “subtenant,” or the individual receiving the housing, shall be considered the tenant for the purposes of rent regulation law enforcement.
- Would extend rent stabilization protection to low-income tenants living in former project-based Section 8 projects, regardless of when the buildings were initially occupied.
- Would allow municipalities to opt in and provide some legal recourse for homeowners in manufactured home parks who are confronted with unjustifiable rent increases and lot fees.
- Limits a landlord’s ability to take possession of rent regulated units for their own primary residence: permits recovery of only one unit, and restricts such ability if the tenant has occupied the apartment for fifteen or more years.
Already Passed in Senate & Assembly
- Protects renters from the actions of unscrupulous landlords seeking to force a rent regulated tenant out of their housing by creating or maintaining the housing in a condition that endangers safety or interferes with or disturbs the comfort, repose, or peace and quiet of the tenant.
- Would establish a new misdemeanor tenant harassment offense (harassment in the 2nd degree) and remove the need to prove physical injury to the tenant for the 1st and 2nd degree harassment charges. The current high bar has resulted in no single landlord ever been convicted of that crime.