A new bill is aimed to protect tenants from being evicted without “good cause.” Rent prices are increasing nationwide. But the good cause protections, if passed, would prevent landlords from imposing major rent increases, from unreasonable evictions and from refusing to renew the tenant’s lease — unless, of course, a judge agrees there’s good cause to do so.
The bill, which was proposed in 2019 and revised in 2020, would still allow landlords to evict tenants who have stopped paying rent, break rules and laws, among other reasons considered valid to evict someone.
“Today, many residential tenants from across New York State are being evicted for unjustifiable reasons,” states the justification section of the Bill. “They lack basic rights that will allow them to renew their expiring lease and to not be priced out of their homes. Landlords across our state are displacing tenants in order to gain higher profits.”
Ulster County residents are rent-burdened. 57% of renters in Ulster County spend more than 30% of their total income on housing, according to a fact sheet posted by For the Many, a progressive grassroots organization in New York, formerly known as Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson.
“The Good Cause eviction bill would protect not only our fellow students, but the artists and working people that our community depends on,” says Sarah Bale, the campus outreach intern for For the Many.
“Only around 25% of the students at SUNY New Paltz reside on campus, the issue of unaffordable housing directly impacts a majority of New Paltz students,” Bale says. “In the Hudson Valley, Black, Latino, and multiracial residents are more likely to be renters and rent burdened compared to white renters… the main advantage of passing this law is to ensure that our own neighbors are not being pushed out of our community.”
After advocates mobilized across the state to demand housing stability and justice last year, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 passed and addressed many shortcomings of existing tenant protections. But it didn’t include good cause eviction protections. These protections have failed to get passed in both 2019 and 2020. Now, smaller cities are aiming to pass it themselves, with Albany being the first municipality in New York to make the bill law. Without statewide legislation, each city will have to pass it on their own.
This isn’t the first time the State has left people on their own during the housing crisis.
New York has the highest share of renters in the nation, yet was the only state in the nation to not distribute any funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program until June of 2021. Out of the $2.7 billion the city was allocated to help renters throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers couldn’t even begin to receive it until over a year after lockdowns began.
Ulster County has yet to pass the good cause eviction bill, but in July introduced a new proposal for good cause evictions, specifically in New Paltz. The law explains that 73% of residents in New Paltz are residential renter-tenants, making renter protections even more important to be passed in the town.
“This legislation will prevent landlords from removing their tenants without first obtaining an order from a New Paltz Justice Court judge,” the first draft of the amendment states. “Each tenant in the Village of New Paltz will be entitled to a renewal lease and protection against an unconscionable rent hike, unless the landlord can substantiate a good cause for the tenant’s eviction.”
Some fear that the legislation would make it unnecessarily difficult for landlords to justly remove tenants.
“There are some bad tenants. Waiting until the lease ends is a good way to end that relationship,” says Realtor Adele Ruger as reported in Spectrum Local News. “Now, we will have to go to court. It will be expensive. It will tie up properties for months and we will have to wait for a new tenant to move in. The state has not passed this law and neither should New Paltz.”
The controversy isn’t just in New Paltz, it’s statewide.
Jay Martin, the executive director of the community housing and improvement program which represents NYC property owners, says the legislation is problematic. “We’ve seen when there are stronger laws preventing more investment we see that there is actually less rental housing for folks,” he says. “We actually need to be encouraging more housing to be built.”
Julia Salazar, a democrat from Brooklyn sponsoring a statewide good cause eviction bill, says claims like Martin’s are unsubstantiated. “Whenever we seek in the legislature to implement protections for tenants or some version of rent control, the opposition says that this is going to drive down home values and property values, this is going to cause an exodus out of the city,” she said to PBS news. “Time and time again when we have implemented strong rent regulations in some cases, such as the existing rent regulations in New York City that hasn’t been the case.”