Consumer Alert: Landlords, tenants react to calls for good cause eviction bill in NYS budget

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. One landlord called it an atomic bomb on Rochester’s rental market.

He’s talking about a hotly debated bill called good cause eviction. Legislators in Albany are considering making the measure part of the state budget and supporters say the bill is desperately needed to protect renters from unfair eviction.

So I talked to some Rochester landlords and then attended a rally of renters so you can understand why this bill is getting so many folks a bit hot under the collar. Tenant advocates, assembly and city council members as well as Democrats in the county legislature are demanding that the state pass good cause eviction as part of the state budget.

The measure mandates that landlords show justification for raising the rent more than 3 percent. Here in the city of Rochester rent has increased 9.6 percent year over year. The law would also force landlords to prove they have a good cause to evict a tenant.

HARRY BRONSON: “It sickens me to know that my constituents suffer from predatory rent hikes, retaliatory evictions, poorly maintained properties, and lack of recourse.”

But landlords argue good cause eviction legislation would make it almost impossible to evict a problem tenant even after their lease expires. Landlord Matt Druoin gives an example.

“My experience in the past of trying to get a tenant out for smoking in their apartment, which caused really really bad consequences on their neighbors, was borderline impossible during their lease,” he said.

So his only option was to evict him after his lease expired.

MATT DRUOIN: “And it ends at that. The contract is over. ‘

DEANNA DEWBERRY: “But with good cause eviction you’re unable to do that? You can’t evict at the end of the lease?”

MATT DRUOIN: “No good cause eviction means when their lease is up, their lease will auto-renew month to month. “

And the landlord can only evict by proving in court that he has good cause, which Matt argues isn’t easy.

MATT DRUOIN: “If a tenant is smoking in his apartment, what am I supposed to do? Pop in there and take a picture of them with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth?”

So I took that question to Assemblyman Bronson.

DEANNA DEWBERRY: “His argument is the guy is a nuisance but proving it is the challenge. So the onus is on the landlord to prove it and protect everyone else in the building.

BRONSON: “I would say the onus is on the tenant to prove that they’re not a nuisance and what we need to do is give them a process by which they can do so.”

That, he argues, is what is lacking in the current system of due process for the tenant. Landlords are not convinced. They believe the legislation removes a vital function for any landlord.

MARVIN MAYE: “The ability to regulate the kind of quality tenants and people who are responsible who are in your property.”

The legislature has extended the budget deadline twice and hopes to settle on a budget by Monday. Whether good cause eviction will be part of it is up in the air. While it has more support this year the bill has failed several times before.