New York City is an amazing place. It is home to more than 8 million people with diverse backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. Did you know that people speak over 200 languages in the city? Or that a child is born every 4.4 minutes?
Of those millions of residents, more than two thirds are renters. As one of them, you know that the city hasn’t always had your back. The living conditions rarely reflect the sky-high rents you pay. If you are fortunate enough to pay less, you are often forced out by landlords who know how to use legal loopholes to increase rent.
On Friday, June 14, New York City stood behind its tenants… and it stood tall.
The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 has been a long time coming, but it became law when the Senate and Assembly voted for it and our governor signed it on June 14. This 74-page legislation overhauls rent laws as we know them, ushering in some of the most tenant-friendly reforms this city has seen in decades.
What are some of the major changes?
The law affects approximately one million people who live in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments with changes such as:
- Eliminating rent increase loophole: Landlords can no longer use vacancy decontrol to increase rent by 20% after a tenant leaves a regulated apartment. It was a loophole that prompted many landlords to harass tenants in the hopes that they would leave so that the landlord could charge a higher rate for the unit.
- Stabilizing rent for many: The new law helps make it easier to determine if your apartment should be rent regulated. Unless there is a limited exception, your landlord must offer rent renewals and cannot raise rent above certain caps for regulated apartments.
- Allowing for bigger refunds in lawsuits: Tenants can now recover six years of rent overcharges instead of four, and they can seek three times the amount of damages instead of two for each year.
- Increasing the lookback period in reviews: Before the law, the court would only look back four years to make determinations. Now, they can look at the entire rent history so long as it is “reasonably necessary” to the decision.
- Ending preferential rents: Owners can no longer take away preferential rents or increase them by more than normal rent increases.
- Ending owner’s use: Those who own the building can no longer take more than one unit for “personal use” Tenants who have resided in the building for 15-years or more are protected.
These are only a few of the highlights. This law gives legal advocates a stronger foundation to fight for those who have been overcharged or suffered other rent violations. It also gives hope to the idea that fewer tenants will experience abuses that force them into a battle. This is a big victory!