Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019

After decades of organizing, the tenant movement dramatically strengthened New York State’s rent stabilization law in 2019. Tenants’ rights are now stronger than they have been in a generation. This victory is a testament to the strength of the housing justice movement, and the coalition we built in the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance.

A summary below outlines the changes we won in the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, but these rights can only be realized if tenants organize to protect and enforce them.

What we won:

Rent Stabilization now covers the entire state.

The Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) enables municipalities in New York State to opt-in to rent stabilization. It gives tenants the right to a renewal lease, and provides protections from sudden rent hikes and retaliatory evictions. ETPA applies to buildings with six or more apartments built before 1974. Prior to June 14, 2019, the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, commonly known as “rent stabilization” only applied to New York City and its surrounding counties. Today, cities, towns, and villages across the entire state can choose to opt in.

It’s much harder for landlords to deregulate apartments.

Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords could remove apartments from rent stabilization once the rent reached $2,775 a month, or the residents’ income reached $200,000 a year. Both of these loopholes, which resulted in the loss of 160,000 rent stabilized units since 1994, have been repealed. It is now much more difficult for landlords to legally deregulate rent stabilized apartments.

The “Vacancy bonus” has been eliminated.

Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords were able to automatically claim a 20% “vacancy bonus” to the legally registered rent in between tenancies. Further, local Rent Guidelines Boards had the option of instituting their own vacancy bonuses annually. Both of the vacancy bonus loopholes have been eliminated.

“Preferential rents” are now permanent.

Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords were able to charge a “preferential rent” – an amount lower than the rent legally registered with the State – and subsequently revoke that preferential rent at lease renewal. This both discouraged tenant organizing, and masked rampant fraud in rent registrations. Today, preferential rents have to last the full duration of a tenant’s tenure in the apartment, and annual rent increases must be based on the rent the landlord and tenant agreed to at the beginning of the tenancy. When the tenant moves out, the landlord may advertise the apartment at the full, legally registered rent.

Landlords are now much more limited in what they can charge for building wide or apartment level improvements.

Individual apartment improvement (IAIs) increases: Prior to 2019, IAIs were a driver of skyrocketing rents in rent stabilized apartments. Today, landlords are limited to a maximum of three IAIs which together are capped at $15,000 over a 15 year period. When amortized, this translates to a rent increase of approximately $89 a month. Further, landlords are now required to adhere to a schedule of reasonable costs to prevent fraud, and to “roll back” the IAI increase after 30 years.

Major capital improvement (MCI) increases: Prior to 2019, MCIs were a driver of skyrocketing rents in rent stabilized apartments. Today, MCIs are capped at 2% and amortize over a longer period of time (12-12.5 years) thus reducing, but not eliminating, the annual cost to tenants. Landlords must adhere to a schedule of costs, and can only claim MCIs if more than 35% of the building is regulated and there are no hazardous violations. To reduce fraud, a quarter of all MCI applications will be audited by Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

Protections that apply to all tenants: against evictions, exorbitant security deposits, and burdensome fees

All tenants in New York State now have stronger protections against evictions:

  • Landlords can no longer add “fees” to nonpayment cases;
  • The court may postpone an eviction for up to a year, if a tenant cannot find a new place to live. If they were evicted for nonpayment and come up with back rent during that year, the eviction can be overturned;
  • The notice periods for eviction warrants and other court processes have been extended, giving tenants more time.

Tenants have new protections surrounding the use of security deposits, apartment rental fees, and more. It is no longer legal for landlords to deny tenancy to any potential renter based on a “tenant blacklist” (a history of tenant/landlord disputes). Background check and credit check fees are now capped at $20 and security deposits are capped at one months rent.All tenants in New York State now have stronger protections from exorbitant fees and the right to know if their lease will not be renewed. Late fees can only kick in after the rent is 5 days late and cannot be more than 5% of the rent or $50, whichever is less. Landlords must give unregulated tenants longer notice if they are planning not to renew their ease, or if their rent will increase more than 5%. Notice periods will vary, based on length of tenancy.

Protections for residents of manufactured home communities

Prior to 2019, New York’s manufactured home residents were vulnerable to arbitrary rent hikes and evictions. Today, manufactured home residents are covered by a new set of regulations and protections, including:

  • Lot rent protections: Community owners cannot increase rent (including all rent, fees, assessments, charges, and utilities) more than 3%, except if justified by an increase in operating expenses, property taxes, or costs directly related to a major capital improvement. Residents can sue in court if a rent increase above 3% is not justified. Even if an increase above 3% is justified, the rent increase cannot go above 6%, unless the court approves a temporary hardship exception.
  • Tenants’ rights against eviction if the owner wishes to change the use of the property: If the community owner is going to change the use of the property and no longer operate it as a manufactured home community, the community owner cannot evict tenants for 2 years and can be ordered to pay each homeowner up to $15,000.
  • Tenants’ right to purchase: If the community owner receives an offer from a buyer and the buyer is going to change the use of the property, then the homeowners and tenants must be given 140 days to put together their own offer and have the right to purchase the community.

To get your rent history and find out if you are being overcharged, visit www.amirentstabilized.com. For more information on the information below, or to get support in organizing in your community, email housing4allny@gmail.com.

2020 Eviction Moratorium & Rent Strikes

Across New York, on May 1, over 17,000 tenants took collective action to not pay their rent. Nearly 2,000 tenants in 60 buildings went on rent strike with their tenant unions; and over 15,000 people who could not pay the rent joined the movement to not pay, together. New York passed the strongest eviction moratorium in the country.

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