A New Bill Could Shield New Yorkers from Steep Rent Increases

The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would require "good cause eviction."

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With New York City rent prices recently seeing their biggest increase in over a decade, many New Yorkers are looking for any way they can to save on rent. A new bill under consideration in the state legislature could provide help by setting rent increase limits and allowing for automatic lease renewals under most circumstances.

Called the Good Cause Eviction bill, the legislation has previously been introduced by state Sen. Julia Salazar of Brooklyn and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter of Syracuse in 2019 and 2021 without coming up for a vote. With the spike in rent prices and the recent end of New York's COVID-era eviction moratorium, momentum is building for lawmakers to do something to help tenants struggling with the state's ever-rising cost of living.

What is good cause eviction?

Good cause eviction essentially means that if you are a good tenant who pays rent on time, your landlord can't evict you except under specific circumstances. Although there are already regulations around evictions, current law in New York does typically allow landlords to raise rents at their discretion and deny a lease renewal to tenants who don't inhabit rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments.

Good cause eviction would end no-fault evictions—allowing for automatic lease renewals for most tenants—and would require landlords to justify rent increases of greater than 3% with "good cause." Increases beyond this could be fought in court if a landlord attempted to evict a tenant for not paying the new, higher rent.

Landlords could still deny a lease renewal in order to occupy a unit themselves or have a family member move in. Tenants could also be evicted for major lease violations or failing to pay rent except in the case of a steep increase. The law would not apply to smaller, owner-occupied buildings or those with similar protections under rent control, rent stabilization, or public housing.

The Community Service Society of New York estimates the bill would provide protections to about 1.6 million households in New York.

Where does good cause eviction already exist?

Several municipalities in the state of New York already have good cause eviction laws. This includes the state capital, Albany, as well as the cities of Kingston, Newburgh, Hudson, and Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley.

How is good cause eviction different from rent control or rent stabilization?

Although some groups representing landlords and building owners have called the legislation a new form of rent control, there are some key differences.

Rent-controlled apartments are often referred to as the holy grail of NYC real estate among renters. These are apartments that have been continuously occupied since July 1, 1971 in buildings built before 1947. Price increases are minimal, with many tenants paying rents similar to the 1970s. These can be passed down to relatives, but revert to rent stabilized apartments in the event of a vacancy. Unless you're related to someone with a rent-controlled apartment, it's impossible for you to get one.

Rent-stabilized apartments are more common and are still available for new tenants in NYC. They generally represent apartments in buildings with six units or more built before 1974. Once occupied, rent can only be raised by the annual percentage determined by the Rent Guidelines Board. This percentage varies by year, but is legally binding.

Good cause eviction would apply protections to a greater share of apartments across the state, limiting rent increases and allowing for an easier renewal process. However, it would not automatically cap rent increases in the same way as these other programs.

Who is opposed to good cause eviction?

Several groups have spoken out against the bill, including those representing construction, real estate, and management companies. They have expressed concerns that the bill would push up market-rate rents, lead to deferred maintenance on protected apartments, and depress the supply of new buildings at a time when the state faces a housing shortage. Sen. Salazar, who introduced the bill, has pushed back against these claims, telling Slate that "their true motive is they don't like regulation."

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Chris Mench is an editor focusing on NYC News at Thrillist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.