Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn) has helped pass the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act – the strongest rent regulation legislation ever passed in New York State – to better protect millions of tenants from unfair landlord practices, while safeguarding affordable housing across the state. The historic legislation – crafted by the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by the governor – puts power back into the hands of tenants.
“As rent increases continue to outpace wage growth, it’s critical that we act to protect access to affordable housing,” said Assemblymember Bichotte. “Tenants have suffered for far too long under a system that favors landlord profits over families’ well-being. This groundbreaking legislation enacts permanent protections for all New Yorkers because everyone should have a safe, affordable place to call home.”
Strongest tenant protections and eviction reform
For the first time in history, there will be robust, expansive protections to tenants statewide. The bill makes permanent the rent stabilization and rent control regulations that were set to expire on June 15, and extends the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974 (ETPA) to any municipality with a rental vacancy rate of 5% or less that chooses to opt in. Currently, only New York City and municipalities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties are eligible for ETPA protections, which include regulated rent increases.
The statewide protections also:
- prohibit landlords of rent-regulated apartments from discontinuing preferential rent for a current tenant, and ensure all future increases are based on the preferential rate, not the legal maximum rent;
- require landlords provide 30 days’ notice for a tenant of one year or less, 60 days’ notice for a tenant of one to two years and 90 days’ notice for a tenant of two or more years when refusing to renew a lease;
- require landlords make a good faith effort to re-rent a unit after a tenant breaks the lease to help mitigate damages;
- prevent landlords from using a database of court information to blacklist prospective tenants;
- limit the amount of a security deposit to an amount equal to one month’s rent and requires any deposit to be refundable; and
- limit background check fees to $20 and prohibit lease application fees.
The measure also strengthens existing retaliatory eviction laws by prohibiting retaliatory eviction against a tenant who makes a good faith complaint to the landlord alleging uninhabitable conditions. Landlords would have the burden of proof to show the eviction is not in retaliation for up to a year after the complaint, and tenants could receive a one-year rent renewal if they prevail.
In addition, the bill reforms the eviction process to ensure tenants aren’t kicked out of their home because their paycheck is late. It gives tenants 14 days after a missed payment to pay their rent before an action can be brought, 10 days’ notice for a court hearing once an action is brought and, if the court decides against the tenant, a warrant providing 14 days to leave the unit. The measure also gives judges greater leeway to stay eviction proceedings in cases where such action would cause an undue hardship.
Saving rent-regulated housing
The rent reform legislation eliminates the vacancy deregulation provision, which currently allows a landlord to remove an apartment from rent stabilization if it becomes vacant and the monthly rent exceeds $2,774.76 in New York City and corresponding amounts in other counties. Since it was enacted in 1994, more than 160,000 apartments – and 62% of all units deregulated during that time – lost their rent-protected status due to vacancy decontrol.
“Vacancy deregulation has been disastrous for our most vulnerable communities and eliminated the progress we’ve made to preserve more rent-regulated apartments,” said Assemblymember Bichotte. “By removing this ill-conceived provision, we can ensure New York can actually protect its affordable housing stock and the people who call those units home.”
The bill also eliminates or reforms current statutes that landlords have often used to raise rent beyond the vacancy deregulation threshold. It eliminates the vacancy bonus, which allows landlords of rent-regulated units to raise the rent by up to 20% after a tenant leaves, and prevents local rent guidelines boards (RGBs) from creating similar bonuses. It also bars RGBs from setting higher rent increases for certain apartments, limits rent-controlled rent increases to 7.5% or the average of the past five increases, whichever is lower, and prohibits pass-alongs of fuel costs to rent-controlled tenants.
Reforming increases for major capital improvements and individual apartment improvements (MCIs and IAIs)
To help prevent abuse of the major capital improvement (MCI) program, the bill caps MCI rent increases at 2% – which are currently set at 6% in New York City and 15% in ETPA counties – and extends the period over which the rent increases are paid in order to reduce the burden on tenants. It also clarifies the types of projects that qualify as MCIs and directs the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to audit and inspect 25% of approved MCIs annually.
“While we always want to encourage building owners to invest in their buildings, landlords have used the MCI program to justify extreme rent hikes, harass tenants and hide fraudulent behavior,” said Assemblymember Bichotte. “By better regulating the program, we can help ensure that all building renovations truly benefit the tenants and building owner.”
The bill also makes similar changes to the individual apartment improvement (IAI) program. It extends the period over which IAI rent increases are paid, prevents owners from performing more than three IAIs – capped at a total of $15,000 – over 15 years and directs DHCR to audit and inspect 10% of IAIs annually.
Protecting tenants in rent-regulated units, co-ops and manufactured homes
To better protect rent-stabilized tenants from landlord malfeasance, the bill eliminates the statute of limitations for tenants to file overcharge complaints and extends the recovery of overcharge penalties from four to six years. It also requires landlords pay three times the amount owed if the overcharges were intentional.
The bill also protects New Yorkers living in buildings converting to condominium or co-op status by halting eviction plans that allow non-purchasing tenants to be evicted, and giving these tenants more time to find a new home. To safeguard tenants in manufactured home parks, the legislation limits rent increases to 3% in most cases, requires owners provide two years’ notice and up to a $15,000 stipend if they intend to evict residents to re-purpose the property and creates regulations for rent-to-own contracts.
The legislation would also:
- limit landlord recovery of rent-regulated apartments for personal use to one unit and allow tenants to pursue legal action if the landlord’s claim is fraudulent;
- provide individuals housed by nonprofits who are or were homeless, or at risk of homelessness, with tenant status and ensure these apartments remain rent-stabilized;
- increase the annual fee to register a rent-regulated unit in New York City from $10 to $20, and dedicate that increase in revenue to DHCR’s Office of Rent Administration (ORA) and Tenant Protection Unit (TPU); and
- require DHCR to conduct annual and publicly available data on the implementation of these regulations.
“For far too long, families have been forced out of their homes and communities because of huge and unfair rent increases and landlords who exploit the system and put profits over people and their lives,” said Assemblymember Bichotte. “Today, the Legislature is righting this historic injustice. Housing is a human right, and New York’s laws are finally going to permanently reflect that.”