Roommates + Landlords

Everything you need to know about New York’s Good Cause eviction law

  • If your building is covered by the new law, a landlord needs a good cause to evict you
  • Some market-rate tenants facing rent increases above 8.82 percent can fight the hikes in court
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
May 7, 2024 - 9:30AM
Looking up at a row of colorful old brick residential buildings with fire escapes along a street in Williamsburg Brooklyn of New York City

It’s a significant slate of new rights for NYC renters, though it’s difficult to tell which renters are protected.


Many New York City market-rate tenants scored new protections from eviction and big rent hikes on April 20th, thanks to policies passed in the state budget.

State legislators finally passed a Good Cause eviction law—which means a landlord must have a good reason to evict a market-rate tenant, and is required to justify raising a tenant’s rent by more than a certain threshold. (Previously, a landlord didn’t have to justify a rent increase or why they didn’t renew a market rate tenant’s lease). 

It’s a significant slate of new rights for NYC renters, though it’s difficult to tell which renters are protected, said Vicki Been, the faculty director for New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and the former deputy mayor for housing and economic development under ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

“The basic point of Good Cause is to provide greater stability, and I think it will do that for tenants who are in a lease right now who will be covered,” Been said. “Now, it's a little hard to tell exactly who's going to be covered because of the exemption for [small landlords].” 

That exemption, and others, were criticized by tenant advocates claiming that the law excludes millions of renters who would have been covered by the policy as it was originally proposed in 2019. 

Read on for a quick guide on what you need to know about Good Cause, and how you can find out if you’re covered by the new law (sort of).

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the consumer price index for 2024.]

What is the Good Cause eviction policy?

The hotly debated Good Cause eviction policy gives market-rate renters a legal way to challenge an “unreasonable” rent increase, defined as more than 10 percent, or 5 percent plus the consumer price index of 3.82 percent (a measure of inflation), whichever is lower. 

That means that a tenant whose building is covered by Good Cause can challenge a rent increase above 8.82 percent as of April 20th, when the law went into effect. 

Good Cause also requires a landlord to let a tenant renew their lease unless the owner has a good cause to evict the renter. For example, a landlord can still evict you if you fail to pay rent (excluding an unreasonable rent hike), violate your lease, break the law, or if your landlord wants to demolish the building or live in it themselves, according to the law’s text.

Your landlord must notify you if your apartment is covered under the policy—or why a building is exempt—through a document attached to your lease. And there are a lot of exemptions.

Who isn’t covered by Good Cause?

Tenants in rental units in condo and co-op buildings, rent-regulated apartments, and living in units built after 2009 won’t qualify for Good Cause protections (rent-stabilized tenants have other legal protections). If you already pay more than 245 percent of the fair market rent for your apartment, you also won’t get the extra protections. So if you cough up more than about $6,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in NYC, you’re out of luck.

Small landlords—those who own no more than 10 apartments in the state—are exempt. Similarly, an owner who lives in their own building, which holds less than 10 units, also doesn’t have to abide by the Good Cause eviction and renewal rules. 

And the protections do not apply to tenants currently in housing court disputes, noted Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society.

About 3.5 million renters statewide live in buildings exempt from Good Cause protections, according to Housing Justice for All. (For context: The original bill would have provided a lower threshold for an unreasonable rent hike, and would have broadly applied to buildings with four or more units, according to its text.)

How will I know if my building is covered?

Figuring out if you’re protected under Good Cause is easier said than done, Been said.

Small landlords are exempt from abiding by Good Cause tenant protections. That seems simple enough, but because the buildings in a landlord’s portfolio are commonly owned by separate limited liability companies, it can be difficult to figure out what your landlord owns, or who they even are.

“It's very hard to tell what an owner's portfolio is because of LLC laws that the state has which make it very non-transparent.” Been said. “It will be hard for some tenants to figure out if they are covered or not.”

Luckily, there are a few ways you can look into whether your building is exempt or not. You can check if your landlord is a small landlord by researching their portfolio through the online tool “Who owns what in NYC?” 

You can also find out when your building was constructed by checking its certificate of occupancy (CO) on the NYC Department of Buildings’ website. (Only buildings where a CO was issued after Jan. 1st, 2009 are exempt.) And check out this story on how to research your landlord for other tools that can help.

If you don’t fall into any of the exempt categories, you likely scored additional tenant protections, which went into effect when the budget passed on April 20th. During your next lease renewal or next apartment search, your landlord should notify you of whether you’re covered (or not) in a notice. 

If they don’t notify you, and you end up in court fighting over an “unreasonable” rent increase, that could help your case, said Andrea Shaprio, the director of programs and advocacy for the tenant’s rights organization the Met Council on Housing. But it’s still too soon to tell.

“We think that if the form isn’t given during a lease renewal or rent increase, it might be a defense in court, because the tenant wasn’t served properly,” Shapiro said. “We won’t know if that’s true or not until cases start going to court.”

How does Good Cause limit rent increases?

Your landlord cannot evict you for failing to pay an “unreasonable” rent increase, defined as 10 percent, or 5 percent plus the consumer price index (a measure of inflation), whichever is lower. 

If they do, you can challenge that increase in housing court, though Davidson noted that housing court is backed up with cases. And going to court isn’t exactly anyone—renter or landlord’s—favorite activity. 

“No one really wants to go to housing court,” said Cea Weaver, coalition director for Housing Justice for All.

If you do end up in court, the law instructs the court to consider a handful of factors when determining what’s a reasonable rent—not just the 10 percent or five percent plus CPI threshold, Davidson noted.

A housing court judge could consider a landlord’s expenses—such as fuel, utilities, insurance, maintenance, property tax bill—as well as any recently completed “significant repairs” to the building or unit to determine a reasonable rent increase, according to the bill.

“If a tenant saw a new roof go up [for example] and a landlord is increasing the rent because of the new roof, that is something that a tenant will take into consideration when thinking about whether they want to challenge this increase or not,” Davidson said.

If I am covered, what should I do now?

The best thing tenants can do is know their rights, said Pamela Hunter, a New York state assembly member who represents Syracuse. She sponsored the original Good Cause eviction bill in 2019 with Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar.

“Renters need to be savvy about their rights,” Hunter said. “This version of the tenant protections does not have to cover a large swath of renters. More people than not will not be protected by this. [You] shouldn't just assume based on the fact that this passed that [you’re] good.”

If you can, figure out if you’re covered under Good Cause so you can identify an unreasonable rent increase come renewal time. You can then use that knowledge to negotiate, Weaver said.

“If you live in a market-rate apartment, and your landlord offers you a rent increase of $2,000 or something crazy like that, you can then say, ‘Hey, I think that you should offer me this amount because I'm actually protected by Good Cause,” Weaver said.

If your landlord does try to raise your rent above the threshold, it's hard to say what the most effective strategy will be, since none of these cases have yet been tried in housing court. 

Weaver recommends getting organized with your fellow tenants and contacting an advocacy group for help.

“I think the most important thing is for tenants to use the new laws to stand up for themselves before they even get to court,” Weaver said. “The best way to do that is with your neighbors.”

Have you used Good Cause to challenge a rent increase or negotiate a smaller one? Tell us your story by emailing [email protected]

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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