Update on “Good Cause Eviction” in New Paltz

Update on Good Cause Eviction in New Paltz
Good cause eviction laws have already passed across New York State, including in Albany, Hudson, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie.

“Good Cause Eviction” legislation has yet to be passed in New Paltz. The law would make it so landlords could only evict tenants or not renew leases for a “good cause,” which would include if a tenant were committing crimes, consistently not paying their rent, causing a nuisance or if the landlord needs the property for their own personal use. Leases would be required to be automatically renewed if the tenant chooses to continue renting from the landlord. The proposed law would provide tenants with a “right to remain” as well as require tenants to justify rent increases that are greater than 3% with a “good cause.” 

Good Cause Eviction laws have already passed across New York State, including in Albany, Hudson, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. For the Many, a New York State grassroots organization, hopes that Poughkeepsie and New Paltz are next. 

The Village of New Paltz has been considering the eviction law since its proposal in 2019 and its revision in 2020. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State already had a widespread eviction problem, with about 100 families being evicted from their rental units each day in New York State. The pandemic has exacerbated the problem of people being unable to pay their rent across New York. A 2021 survey found that 53% of New York renter households making less than $100,000 were not highly confident that they could pay next month’s rent, with 39% of New York renter households facing the risk of eviction in the next two months. Despite people being unable to afford the high cost of rent, rents have been increasing rapidly, with a nationwide 9.4% increase since the start of the pandemic. Experts fear a dire eviction crisis is unfolding, and with the New York State eviction moratorium ending on Jan. 15, the author of the proposed law, Deputy Mayor Alex Wojcik believes that tenants need increased protection. 

“In light of the pandemic and to protect ourselves in the future, I’d like to get this done sooner than later,” she told Spectrum News 1.

Public opinion differed on the law during an extensive public comment period at an Ulster County Legislature meeting on Oct. 19. Tenants and landlords have divided opinions about the legislation. 

The Good Cause law has extensive benefits for tenants. It would give them increased security, stability and legal protection against arbitrary rent increases or displacement. Tenants often feel the need to “self-evict” by moving out before their lease is up because they fear displacement. The law would fortify renter’s rights and embolden tenants to stand up to their landlords, while also making it so those that experience illegal landlord behavior, discrimination, or poor living conditions can safely confront their landlords or file a complaint without fear of being evicted for doing so.

There is a substantial renter population in the Village of New Paltz, with 73% of residents being renters. 

Multiple landlords have criticized the bill, stating that the bill will lead to an unnecessary hassle by limiting their control over ending a lease. The proposed law would prevent landlords from ending a lease on their terms, which could lead to them having to bring a tenant to court and wait to rent out the property to another person. 

Landlord Matthew Elkin believes good cause is not needed in New Paltz. “There are lots of evictions in Albany, but not in New Paltz,” says Elkin. “There have only been five evictions in five years.” At a public hearing in August 2021, an informal coalition of New Paltz landlords verbalized opposition to the good cause law. 

According to census data, the Village of New Paltz has a higher rental turnover rate than the City of Albany. Wojcik told the Times Union, “We have a very unstable population of renters. I know some people will rebut that and say it’s because of the students. If you go on campus the first year, there are three more years [renting off campus].”

In a letter to the editor of The Daily Freeman, 28-year-old resident and tenant of New Paltz, Leo Condon voiced his support for a good cause. He stated, “As a tenant in the Hudson Valley, I know Good Cause is important because when we support our most vulnerable, it’s best for everyone. In this case, amid the housing crisis that has worsened with COVID-19, the most vulnerable folks are tenants and smaller-scale landlords ..Responsible landlords already follow what is in Good Cause and this law won’t hurt them. In fact, it will help them, because it stops exploitative landlords from having an unfair advantage in the market.” 

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