Tenants and Landlords to Testify on New York’s Rent Laws

As state rent laws to approach their expiration dates, the Senate Majority announced Monday that a series of public hearings will be held to discuss rent regulation and tenant protection.

Housing and tenant rights groups have long fought for rent regulations and tenant protections, while landlord groups launched a campaign two months ago calling for “responsible rent reform.”

The NYS Senate Housing Committee is set to hold meetings in Brooklyn, Albany, Syracuse and Newburgh, where the public will have the opportunity to express themselves prior to the expiration of the state rent laws on June 15.

The hearings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Thursday, May 9, from 4:00-8:00 PM in Syracuse at the Danforth Middle School, 309 West Brighton Ave, Syracuse, NY 13205.
  • Thursday, May 16, from 1:00-8:00 PM in Brooklyn at Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225.
  • Wednesday, May 22, from 1:00-8:00 PM in Albany at the Legislative Office Building.
  • Thursday, May 23, from 2:30-8:00 PM in the Hudson Valley at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, 321 South William Street, Newburgh, NY 12550.

The following nine proposals for rent regulations reform will soon go to vote:

  • Expand the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (S5040/A7046) across the state to regulate rents and evictions during a housing emergency, which is when there is a vacancy rate of 5 percent or less. The current laws only apply to Nassau, Westchester and Rockland counties and New York City counties.
  • Prohibiting evictions “without good cause” (S2892/A5030). “Good cause” is a legal term that does not allow an action without substantial grounds or reason to take place. For example, if a landlord  raises the rent a significant amount and the tenant cannot pay the new rent, the landlord would have to prove the increase was a necessity.
  • End vacancy decontrol (S2591/A1198) which currently allows a  rent-stabilized unit leaves the program if its rent exceeds $2,774.76 or the tenant-household’s income exceeds $200,000.
  • Eliminating the vacancy bonus (S185/A2351) which allows landlords to boost rent by 20 percent every time a lease changes hands.
  • Make preferential rents permanent until vacancy (S2845A/A4349). Preferential rents occur when an owner charges less than the legal rent–creating the threat of a sudden, massive increase in rent far larger than the year-to-year increases approved by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board. (The city’s Independent Budget Office today reported that the vast majority of apartments with preferential rents retain such rents year to year and do not face the sudden increases advocates have focused on.)
  • End rent hikes for “major capital improvements” (S3693/A6322) which currently permit property owners to hike rents so as to cover the reported expenses from building-wide renovations.
  • End rent hikes for “individual apartment improvements” (S3770/A6465) which currently permit property owners to hike rents so as to cover the reported expenses from apartment-specific renovations.
  • Extend time for overcharge complaints (S4169/A5251). This would would eliminate the statute of limitations for rent-stabilized tenants to file rent overcharge complaints. Currently, tenants must file a complaint against a landlord within a four-year period.
  • Rent control and rent stabilization increase cap (S299A/A167). This measure would put conditions on the maximum rent increases eligible for rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments. It would also require the Department of Housing and Community Renewal to cap the percentage rent increase available to owners of rent-controlled apartments at a rate on par with recent Rent Guidelines Board adjustments for one-year renewal leases.