Consumer Alert: Neither landlords nor housing advocates are happy about compromise eviction legislation

Consumer Alert: Good Cause eviction measure compromise pleases nobody

Consumer Alert: Good Cause eviction measure compromise pleases nobody

More than 60 percent of Rochesterians rent their homes.  So, some serious wrangling in Albany will have a direct effect on the majority of Flower City residents. 

It looks like the Legislature might actually pass a Good Cause Eviction measure as part of the finalized budget.  Advocates have tried to pass similar legislation for years, but I’ve gotten word from some very good sources that this year it may just happen. However, it’s taken a lot of compromise, and the version on the table right now looks pretty different from the original proposal.

There is little doubt. Compromise is rarely a pretty process, and this time is no exception. Landlords and developers are adamantly opposed to Good Cause Eviction legislation, arguing it will kill construction of new rentals.

Housing advocates are just as adamant in their support of the measure, arguing tenants must be protected from what they call unreasonable rent increases and unfair evictions. But on this, both sides agree: They hate the compromise version now being considered.

“With this compromise version of Good Cause, Governor Hochul is denying millions of renters across the state basic protections from rent hikes and evictions,” said Ritti Singh, Communications Organizer for Housing Justice for All.

Singh believes millions of renters will be denied Good Cause protections because municipalities outside New York City can choose to opt in, and she predicts many will not, creating an odd patchwork of protections depending solely on your address. 

Ironically landlords also really dislike the opt-in compromise as well, but for very different reasons.

“It [Good Cause Eviction] will pass in the city of Rochester through City Council in terms of its opt-in provision and we will see disinvestment out of naturally occurring affordable housing at a local level,” said Matt Drouin, president of Freedom First Real Estate Investors Association.

Drouin believes the legislation will drive developers and good landlords into suburbs that have opted out of Good Cause eviction provisions. The compromise also raises the cap on how much your landlord can increase your rent. The cap is now either 10 percent or 5 percent plus the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. Right now the CPI is 3.5 percent, so the cap would be 5 percent plus 3.5 percent, which is 8.5 percent.

It was 3 percent in the original measure, and while failure to pay rent or damaging property are among the good causes to evict, the compromise adds two more circumstances in which a landlord can evict a tenant.  The first is if the landlord plans to remove the apartment from the market.  The second circumstance is if the landlord is planning to make substantial improvements to the apartment. Housing advocates are deeply opposed to those two additions because the tenant has no way to disprove the landlord’s claims. 

“There’s really no safeguards to assure that the landlord isn’t really lying,” said Singh.

Landlords on the other hand dislike having any cap, saying it will discourage property owners from making improvements. 

But on this both sides agree — neither is happy.

Because of the exceptions that are now included in the compromise version of Good Cause legislation, housing advocates believe it will deny protections to 70 percent of the renters it was designed to cover.  Of course, this will all be moot if Rochester chooses to opt out of Good Cause eviction provisions.  So, I asked city leaders about that, and a spokesperson said they’ll make those decisions after the Legislature finally agrees on a budget.