Sunday, July 14, 2019

Tremendous Victory in Albany: 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act

After years and then finally months and weeks and days of tremendous pressure by tenants, and a change in party-control of the NYS Senate (yay, elections!), we now have the 

The new law will change many things state-wide for tenants.  Instead of making it easier for landlords to replace lower-paying tenants with higher-paying tenants (a great investment tactic for hedge funds), the new law makes it easier for tenants to keep their homes.   The summary below is not complete and is not legal advice. (See some other summaries here and here.)  In addition, the rent laws no longer have an automatic "sunset" date.  They are permanent, which may be why landlords have filed suit in federal court to undo the rent law changes

Click on "read more" for a comparison chart of some of the changes between what we had and what is in the new 

In addition, read explanations about it 

SUMMARY of the 2019 RENT LAW
most of which went into effect on June 15, 2019.

This is not complete, and not legal advice!


Rent laws applied only downstate. Only the downstate counties could regulate rents.

State-wide application:
Any county anywhere in New York State can regulate rents, and protections for unregulated tenants apply state-wide.

Major capital improvement to the whole building → permanent rent increases for rent stabilized tenants. The increase is compounded with lease-renewal increases. (Market-rate tenants are already paying a lot! They’re not subject to MCIs.)

Major capital improvement to the whole building → 30-year rent increases for rent stabilized tenants. The increase is compounded with lease-renewal increases, but all that will be removed at the end of 30 years.  Doesn’t affect market-rate tenants.

MCI costs were approved even if much greater than normal.

DHCR will create a schedule of reasonable MCI costs.

The formula to determine an MCI was:
Divide by 98 (number of months in 9 years), and then by the number of rooms in the building to get the per-room amount.

The formula to determine an MCI is:  Divide by 150 (number of months in 12.5 years) and then by the number of rooms in the building to get the per-room amount.  This yields a much lower per-room amount.

The tenant had to pay increase of at least 6% of current rent each year toward the MCI until the full amount was reached.

The tenant must pay no more than 2% of current rent each year toward the MCI until the full amount is reached.

The tenant also had to pay the retroactive amount – from the time the landlord applied for an MCI until the time the state housing agency granted it.

NO retroactive amount for MCI.

DHCR granted MCIs even if landlord violates the building code.

No MCI if there is a hazardous violation (not yet fixed) against the landlord.

No oversight of MCIs.

DHCR must audit 25% of all MCIs each year.

All buildings with any rent stabilized tenants are subject to MCIs.

Only buildings with at least 35% of rent stabilized apartments get MCIs.

If your rent reached the de-regulation amount and your household income total was $200,000 or more, your apartment would be taken out of stabilization.

NO high-rent deregulation

Time to file an overcharge: 4 years.
Damages: Tenant could get 3 times the amount of overcharge back for the previous 2 years if fraud shown.

Tenant can get 3 times the amount of overcharge for the previous 6 years if fraud shown.

Individual Apt. Improvements:
Landlord claimed hundreds of thousands in costs (some-times inflated) for vacant apartments, and added 1/40th or 1/60th of those costs to the rent. That raised the rent enough to be deregulated.

Improvement cost  for any one apartment are limited to $15,000 over 15 years – with no more than 3 improvements during that period.
There is no more de-regulation of vacant apartments.

Apartment empty? Landlord got up to a 20% vacancy rent increase and sometimes a larger increase for long-term prior tenant. 

NO vacancy bonus, no "longevity" increase.

Tenant Blacklist: Landlords paid companies to collect names of tenants who had complained or been sued in Housing Court – and refused to rent those tenants even if they won in court.

It’s illegal for a landlord to use the blacklist as a basis for refusing to rent to that person.

Security deposit – landlords could ask for any number of months’ rent and pay it back when they felt like it.

Landlords can ask for only 1 month’s rent for a security deposit. The deposit must be returned within 14 days at the end of the occupancy.

Tenants can inspect apartment before moving in, and must get notice 2 weeks before more out of what landlord is claiming as a reason not to return the security deposit - and give the tenant a chance to fix it .Landlords can withhold security deposit for damage above normal wear and tear, nonpayment of rent or utilities, moving and storage of tenant's belongings.

The landlord could raise the unregulated rent or choose not to renew the lease at the end of the lease, with no notice to tenants.

Tenants who break the lease are responsible for the whole lease amount. 

If the landlord plans to not renew the lease of or to raise the market-rate tenant’s rent by more than 5%, the landlord must notify the tenant at least 60 days before lease (if tenant has lived here 1-2 years at end of lease), or 90 days (if tenant has lived here longer).

If the tenant breaks the lease, the landlord has a duty to mitigate by renting at the lower of the market rent or the tenant's last rent. 

Late fees: Whatever the landlord said in the lease.  

Late fees: Grace period of at least 5 days, and late fees for market tenants in this building can’t be more than $50 or 5% of the rent (whichever is less).  

Short notice to tenants of non-payment

Longer notice to tenants of non-payment.  Tenants also get a longer period to reply.  Read the court documents if you get them!

Conversion to Condo or Co-op: Landlord needed 15% of existing renters to agree, for a non-eviction plan, and 51% for a plan in which existing tenants could be evicted.

Conversion to Condo or Co-op:
Landlords need 51% of existing renters to agree for a non-eviction plan. (No more eviction plans.)

Preferential rent “bait and switch” : Landlord rented an apartment for under the legal regulated rent. At the next lease renewal, the landlord added the Rent Guidelines Board increases to the higher legal regulated rent.  The tenant couldn’t afford it and moved out.  

The preferential rent is considered the legal regulated rent as long as that tenant lives there.

Rent controlled tenants in apartments built before 1947 paid 7.5% increase yearly plus a “fuel pass-along.”

Rent controlled tenants in apartments built before 1947 have essentially the same increases as rent stabilized tenants. (There’s a formula based on the Rent Guidelines.)

Trailer ParksThey used to be able to raise rents any amount, and the “mobile home” owners (of homes that were in fact too fragile to move) were stuck.

Trailer Parks: Lot owners can only raise the rent 3%/year unless they can open their books and show hardship.

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