Albany’s ‘No Eviction Ever’ bill will devastate landlords – and New York’s housing stock
An Airbnb user who never plans to leave. Tenants do not pay enough rent to maintain the buildings. A roommate temporarily renting a room who later decides not to move.
Under the Legislature’s misleading Good Cause Eviction bill, these occupants can all stay in their apartment forever and the landlord has virtually no recourse.
“No Eviction Ever” would be a better name for an absurdly vague and sweeping proposal that would impose tough new limits on rent increases and evictions for nearly 1.6 million New York tenants.
While some revisions are likely, the business community and real estate industry nevertheless fear that it will become law with its devastating core elements intact.
The bill broadly defines almost anyone who pays another person to occupy New York City real estate as a “tenant” and specifically bars landlords from removing them except in the narrowest of circumstances.
Aimed to impose draconian restrictions on free-market apartments, the measure would create rights to automatically renew leases even when tenants misbehave or landlords wish to salvage homes for personal use or to repair and sell buildings.
In theory, the bill allows landlords to evict tenants for “good causes,” such as nonpayment of rent, damage to apartments, or use of them for illegal purposes. But “No Eviction Ever” would turn even the simplest cases of nonpayment and breach of lease into costly and time-consuming lawsuits by setting the bar for evictions incredibly high.
Consider rent increases. According to the bill, increases greater than 3% or 1.5 times the regional consumer price index, whichever is greater, are deemed “unreasonable” and not permitted. Worse still, the bill leaves it up to the court to decide that any rent increase – even less than 3% or 1.5 times the CPI – is “unreasonable”.
This means that tenants could challenge all rent increases, even those for insignificant amounts or those desperately needed for maintenance.
The bill, which assumes tenants never support evictions from bad neighbors, amounts to a particularly damaging type of universal rent control in which tenants’ rents would essentially be frozen in place.
Landlords would end up subsidizing all tenants, even those in luxury apartments who could easily afford increases. Owners deferred or skipped repairs and upgrades to avoid the legal battles needed to fund them. It would harm everyone involved, reducing the quality of New York’s housing stock.
Proponents of the bill say the bill mirrors laws in other states, including New Jersey. But New York’s proposal has far fewer grounds — and far fewer solid grounds — for landlords to evict tenants. Under the New York bill, a tenant could successfully fight eviction by claiming the landlord is trying to avoid whatever the bill’s “intent” is because the bill does not clearly define its intent or what “avoiding it” means.
Laws in other states also give landlords more leeway to raise rents. A tenant in Jersey must prove a rent increase is ‘unconscionable’ – meaning so unfair or unjust that it ‘shocks the conscience’.
Additionally, the Garden State has at least eight additional grounds for eviction beyond New York’s list, including habitual failure to pay rent, property theft convictions, threats to landlords and landlords. selling or converting properties.
New York’s “No Eviction Ever” bill, by contrast, would completely bar owners of buildings with 12 or more units from repossessing apartments for personal purposes, such as providing housing for unemployed or ill family members. . (Owners of buildings with 5 to 11 units could claim an “immediate and compelling” need to repossess apartments.)
On top of all this, the already overburdened New York courts are ill-equipped to handle more “immediate and compelling” cases.
Finally, “No Eviction Ever” outrageously protects tenants who illegally rent out their apartments as short-term guests through services like Airbnb. The bill would only allow landlords to evict such tenants if the landlords can convince local governments to issue “evacuation orders”. Yet most municipalities, including New York City, generally do not issue such ordinances. Instead they are fine owners when tenants violate short-term rental laws.
It would be a double whammy for New York landlords: a tenant who cannot be evicted, coupled with government fines for not evicting that same tenant.
Everyone wants to make New York more affordable. But the answer is not to violate constitutionally protected private property rights, by effectively transferring ownership of rental properties to tenants, regardless of their behavior.
Alexander Lycoyannis is a member of Rosenberg & Estis, PC, a New York City real estate law firm.