housing

What Does N.Y.’s New Rent Law Mean for Tenants?

Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

New York’s loophole-ridden system for regulating rents on nearly 1 million New York City apartments gave way Friday to a sweeping rent reform package offering tenants wide-ranging protections.

The historic rent package eliminates or downsizes multiple means landlords have long used to increase rents and ultimately remove rent-regulated apartments from the system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new rent package into law minutes after the wide-ranging protections passed the Democratic-dominated Assembly.

Lawmakers’ votes on the new rent law fell largely along party lines. In the Senate, the package was approved 36 to 26, with four Long Island Democrats voting against the package. The Assembly approved the bill 95 to 42, with only a single Democrat voting against the measure.

The new rent law strengthens protections for tenants in both regulated and unregulated apartments across the state:

• If a regulated tenant complains about being overcharged by a landlord, courts and the state may review a minimum of six years of their apartment’s rent history — up from four years — and landlords are liable for any overcharges found in that span.

• Security deposits will be limited to one month’s rent, with procedures to make it easier for renters to get their security deposits back.

• The use of “tenant blacklists,” listing names who’ve had cases in housing court, to screen applicants for housing is now banned.

• Landlords will be required to provide their tenants at least 30 days notice if they intend to increase their rent more than 5% or if they do not plan on renewing the lease.

• Unlawful evictions, such as when a landlord illegally locks out or uses force to evict a tenant, would become a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a civil penalty between $1,000 and $10,000 per violation.

• Tenants will have more time in eviction proceedings to get a lawyer, fix the violations of the lease or pay the owed rent.

• Courts will be able to stay an eviction for up to a year if renters can’t find a similar dwelling in the same neighborhood or if the eviction would cause “extreme hardship.” Judges could take into consideration whether a child’s school enrollment would be disturbed or if a tenant’s health issues could be exacerbated by relocation.

Last but not least, landlords will now be limited to just three ways to legally raise rents on tenants in regulated apartments — about 44% of the city’s 2.18 million rental units:

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