Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tremendous Victory for Tenants in Albany!

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 laws no longer have an automatic sunset date.  They are permanent (which is probably why landlords have filed suit in federal court to undo the rent law changes). 

Learn more about the new law at our next General Tenants Meeting on Wed., September 18, 2019 at 8 PM in the Community Room with Legal Aid attorney (who played a big part in creating and promoting parts of the bill)  will be here. 

SUMMARY of the 2019 RENT LAWS
as they apply to us. These went into effect, for the most part, on June 15, 2019.



OLD LAW
NEW LAW

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.
Tenant could get 3 times the amount of overcharge back for the previous 2 years if fraud shown.

NO LIMIT.  Technically it's 6 years - but if improper deregulation alleged, DHCR can look back as long as needed.
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 1/60th 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.


NO vacancy bonus.

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.  (In our building, rent stabilized tenants could not be charged a late fee because that wasn’t allowed when we were under the Mitchell-Lama program.) 


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).  Rent stabilized tenants who were here when we were in Mitchell-Lama cannot be charged late fees.


5 business-day notice of eviction. 






Non-rent fees often included in what the landlord claimed was due. 



14 calendar-day notice of eviction, must be in writing. .  Tenants also get a longer period to reply.  Read the court documents if you get them - and notify the tenant association's executive committee!

Non-rent fees excluded from non-payment cases.  

Courts can consider household situation in giving tenant more time to move.  

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.  (Not an issue in our building.)

The preferential rent is consi-dered 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.



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

State-wide rent regulation:   Any county anywhere in New York State can opt to regulate rents, and protections for unregulated tenants (like security deposits and notice of rent increases and non-payment) apply state-wide.

Trailer Parks: They 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: 3% cap on trailer park lots, unless landlord opens books to prove hardship.