Keeping our city affordable for all New Yorkers.
New York lawmakers pushed through a sweeping package of rent laws that will strengthen protections for vulnerable tenants. For decades, we have advocated to keep our city affordable for all New Yorkers. Learn what these historic reforms mean for our clients.
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Decades of advocacy have paid off for tenants in need. Learn more about how we got where we are today.
Tenant groups and advocates rally in Albany in support of reforms (Scott Heins | Gothamist)
For years, changes to rent laws and laws governing rent regulations have undergone countless, incremental changes. Piece by piece, city and state lawmakers have sought to address vacancy rates, zoning issues, and the creation and preservation of affordable housing. Over time, these incremental changes and extensions of existing regulations have caused the amount of affordable housing available for New Yorkers to fall in the last ten years. The most recent update to these laws came in 2015. This update extended the rent regulations in place at the time until June 15, 2019, but did little to protect tenants from landlords, who still had the unencumbered opportunity to:
Exploit loopholes in the regulations to raise rents on low-income New Yorkers;
Purposely allow for building conditions to deteriorate until they could apply for (often unnecessary) capital improvements and pass the cost on to tenants through rent hikes; and
Harass tenants to force them out of their apartment and secure vacancy bonuses. Through vacancy bonuses, landlords can raise rents after each new tenant, up to the point that the apartment is no longer rent-regulated and affordable for low-income New Yorkers.
Over the last several years, the de Blasio administration and housing advocates like The Legal Aid Society and its partners in the Housing Justice for All coalition have recognized the need for permanent reforms to the city’s rent regulations. Though progress has been made incrementally, the city’s affordable housing crisis continues, and calls for real, permanent reform have strengthened.
What is changing?
These historic reforms cover a number of important areas. Learn more about what is changing for tenants in need.
Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice
On June 14, Governor Cuomo signed into law the most progressive rent regulation reforms in New York State. The package of bills expand rent regulations statewide, remove the rent threshold which when met allows landlords to remove the apartment from rent regulation and deplete the city’s affordable housing, closes loopholes through which landlords allow for building conditions to deteriorate and secure exorbitant rent increases for what would otherwise be unnecessary building improvements, among others.
These reforms will be permanent, ending the concern that turnover in Albany could undo previously enacted reforms.
Tenants across our city now have new protections in place to help keep them in their homes and off the street. Want to learn more about the key reforms that have been enacted? Read this summary of these reforms here.
We’re on the front-lines of the fight for tenants. See what we are doing for New Yorkers in need.
Ellen Davidson and Judith Goldiner of our Law Reform Unit celebrate the reforms with State Senator Liz Krueger (center).
The Legal Aid Society has led a robust campaign alongside our housing allies to ensure that the State pass the strongest tenant protections to-date. For years, The Legal Aid Society has called for reforms and the closing of loopholes that plague our affordable housing system and push people deeper into poverty. Our fight to defend our clients and all low-income New Yorkers who are susceptible to landlord abuse has taken on many forms. Here is just some of our work on behalf of tenants in need:
Under old laws, landlords would often delay repairs to make conditions unlivable, forcing out existing tenants so that rents could be raised on the next tenants. Irene Maldonado and her sister are currently facing this challenge. The two sisters, along with their three children, live with mold, rats, and even bees. Meghan Walsh, a Staff Attorney in our Housing Practice, is currently representing Irene and her sister as they fight against their neglectful landlord. With the new protections under the reformed rent regulations, tenants like Irene have a better chance of getting their apartment fixed and staying in their home.
We also visited the homes of our clients in Long Island City, represented by Staff Attorney Nelson Young, whose landlord is also trying to evict them without good cause. Bill Lindauer, a 75-year-old former cab driver, is now fighting to stay in his apartment. After his landlord sold the two-story apartment building, Bill is now being forced out of his home by the new building owner. Bill, who lives off his monthly Social Security checks, would have few other options if he lost his home. Thankfully, we are taking a stand for Bill and the other 11 tenants of his building. We are working with them to keep them from being wrongfully evicted from their apartments.
To underscore the need to eliminate Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) loopholes that push tenants out of their homes, we visited the now-vacant building of our clients who were run out of their apartments by their unscrupulous landlord.
In Albany, staff members joined advocates from across the State for #TenantTuesday rallies at the Capitol to demand legislators #PassAll9 housing bills. Thousands have descended upstate over the past several months, culminating on June 4 when dozens of advocates were arrested as the housing debate escalated before the June 15 deadline.
Behind the scenes, Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Robert Desir played an instrumental role in helping with the 61 arrestees, which included Public Advocate Jumanne Williams, by making sure that the three who were overcharged were released without spending the night in jail.
We also partnered with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on a Daily News Opinion piece, and worked with The Nation on an essential read about the Housing Movement, which Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of our Civil Law Reform Unit contributed to, among many other media articles.
The Legal Aid Society’s Law Reform Unit helped push for these essential changes. For years, their work advocating for tenants across our city has been instrumental in these reforms. Lawmakers in Albany were quick to credit the work of The Legal Aid society and all of our partner organizations for championing these causes.
However, even with this historic victory, our work is not done. A key piece of the reform package, the Good Cause Eviction Bill, was not passed this week. This bill would provide essential protections to tenants, preventing them from being unjustly evicted from their homes. We will continue to advocate for tenants in need and push for the legal protections they deserve.