New Housing Law in New York Having Huge Impact on Tenant Evictions

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice
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New Orleans       The Wall Street Journal and its reporters must get a special thrill when they can score an exclusive on the New York Times on New York’s own turf.  I bet they didn’t even care when they went out to celebrate last week at their local watering hole that their billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch, and all the landlords who read their paper were probably seething as they went line by line reading about the huge benefits the new housing law in New York State was having for tenants.  Their tenants are not big readers of the Journal, but even though they may not have seen the article, they still celebrated.  The difference was that they stayed home, rather than going out, because the big news was that they were not being evicted.

One of the most profound results of the new law has been the almost 50% drop in evictions being filed in New York City’s housing court.   The new law instructed landlords to wait fourteen days rather than three days before evicting for nonpayment or late payment.  According to the Journal’s review of the statistics for the New York City boroughs, “New eviction cases against city tenants for nonpayment of rent are down by more than 35,000 since the law was signed on June 14, compared with the same period in 2018, a drop of 46%….”  The new law also gave tenants more time to respond, all of which has seems to have slowed down the eviction happy landlords who assumed they could threaten someone with housing court and be done with it, and then raise the rents to escape rent control restricts.  Holdover cases on minor lease infraction claims are also reportedly down by 11% as landlords try to figure out how to get the upper hand again under this new 74-page law that closed many of the loopholes they had enjoyed in the past.

Some of the impact is more New York City than universal.  There have been huge increases in legal protection for tenants in the housing court under Mayor DeBlasio.  Admittedly these changes were enacted before the new law, but it has to be a factor in slowing them down now while they figure the angles.  Additionally, there is a “look back” provision on previous repairs and rent increases that is peculiar to NYC rent control that wouldn’t exist in other cities, preventing us from comparing every orange city to the Big Apple.

Nonetheless, the point is impossible to miss.  Making the law fairer and giving tenants real rights and protections does in fact slow evictions and protect affordable housing.  Preventing landlords from playing gotcha on the least little things and perp walking them into courts keeps tenants in their units and lets them work things out with their landlords.

It’s pretty clear already that cities and states in the US and abroad as well need to study the new law and see what they can put in place locally.  For sure tenants and our organizations are now going over it with a fine-toothed comb.