Ask Sam: What's happening with Good Cause eviction legislation? Is it likely to pass Albany?
I’ve keep hearing about Good Cause Eviction legislation. What is happening with this bill and is it likely to be voted into law?
Now in committee in the New York State Legislature, the bill called Prohibition of Eviction Without Good Cause would extend many of the rights enjoyed by rent-stabilized tenants to market-rate renters, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
“This is a big focus of the tenant movement, and it has a better chance of passing now than it did in 2019, when it was first proposed,” Himmelstein says.
The proposed legislation is especially popular now that market-rate tenants are seeing massive rent hikes of 30 percent or even more at lease renewal time. Currently, landlords can decline to renew a market-rate tenancy for any reason, and can raise monthly rent by any amount when a tenant’s lease is up for renewal.
The Good Cause Eviction bill would institute dramatic changes, placing restrictions on a landlord’s ability to end a lease and to raise the rent.
“Under the bill, a landlord would have to continue the tenancy once a lease expires, and could not raise the rent by any amount they want,” says Ronald Languedoc, a partner at HMGJ Law. “The only exception is for owner-occupied premises with less than four units, a sublet of someone’s primary residence, or premises occupied by someone employed by the building, like a superintendent.”
Rent hikes upon lease renewal would be limited to increases of either 3 percent, or 1.5 times the annual change in the consumer price index—whichever is higher. Due to inflation, if the bill were in effect now, a market-rate tenant with a monthly rent of $2,000 could face a 12.5 percent increase, The New York Times explains. This is higher than the increases proposed for stabilized tenants by the Rent Guidelines Board, but less than what many market-rate renters have faced this year.
“The bill also allows for the possibility of higher increases if the owner does some major capital improvements,” Languedoc says. “But they would still have to continue a renter’s tenancy after the lease expires with very limited exceptions encompassed under the term good cause, like the landlord needing the premises for themselves or someone in their family.”
Tenants could also face possible eviction for causing a nuisance—for example, using their apartments for illegal purposes—or for other offenses like non-payment of rent, or breaching their lease which also put stabilized tenants at risk for losing their leases. (See the rules for evicting rent-stabilized tenants here.)
Still, if the legislation passes, it would mean significant changes in favor of market-rate tenants throughout the state—and many landlord groups and others oppose it.
The bill is currently making its way through committees in the state senate and assembly; if approved, it will go before the governor. It remains to be seen in what form it might become law.
“What sometimes happens as legislation moves through committees is that it gets revised and there are compromises made,” Himmelstein says. “There is tremendous pressure from the real estate industry—they’re really afraid of this legislation.”
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.