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"Good Cause" Eviction Bill Is Bad for the Tenant and the Landlord
New York Progressives are gunning to exacerbate the housing crisis that strict eviction-protection has brought in other states.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is being attacked form all sides for her housing plan.
Intense negotiations are ongoing over New York’s FY 2024 Executive Budget. To address the shortage of homes and rental units that have spiked the housing market, Hochul has proposed the New York Housing Compact plan to be included in the budget, and the state is deadlocked over its provisions. The plan sets a goal of building 800,000 new homes in the state over the span of 10 years. Several republican legislators and landlord associations have spoken about the negative impact of the deal, especially on Long Island, partly because the house increase mandate plans to overrule local zoning laws, placing too heavy a burden on existing infrastructure.
On the other side, a group of progressives and moderate Democrats have joined together to propose a “good cause” eviction bill, Sponsored by New York State Senator Julia Salazar. The bill is twofold, it contains both restrictions on landlords ending a tenancy, combined with rent control measures.
Regarding rent control, increases would be capped at 3 percent a year or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index. The bill gives landlords the opportunity for larger increases if they can prove their costs have gone up or made significant improvements and is limited to landlords with 4 or more units. The Community Service Society predicts that the bill would affect 1.6 million households across the state, which is about half of all renters, averaging above two thirds of houses in non-NYC counties to be eligible.
Then there is good cause itself — which would prohibit landlords from ending a tenancy as long as the tenant is paying rent on time and not violating the lease. It forces the landlord to come up with a good cause for reclaiming their property from the tenant. Proponents of good cause will point to the surge in evictions that New York City has seen since the end of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium that prevented evictions for nearly two years. They will also point to the fact that New Jersey and California have similar laws.
On Tuesday, protestors have gathered in Albany to demand that Good Cause eviction gets into the budget proposal:
“Governor Hochul doesn’t like [Housing Justice For All] because she doesn’t want everyone who’s included in this program to be included. That includes people who are undocumented, people with felony convictions…”
“We know Governor Hochul is like really conservative and that she really, you know, she’s racist. She does not like immigrants. She does not like people who’ve been, you know, in jail. So she’s, like, really, really been fighting against it.”
The inclusions of filler words are meant to be really unflattering, but the critique appears to be one that doesn’t take economic reasons into account, only Hochul’s secret racism. If she doesn’t pass a strict eviction-protection bill among New York’s already strict eviction protection rules, it must be because she doesn’t like the undocumented and felons. I’m sure this activist and others earnestly believe that these are the kinds of measures you would have to take to protect these people, but this kind of personal slander is the angle you would have to take to make your case compelling — there is no sound economic case for good cause.
It’s Our House Now
The core issue with good cause is it makes it more difficult for landlords to manage their property, in an already highly regulated market like New York. In order to understand how dangerous this is to the housing market; you simply have to imagine the many real-life scenarios that would play out from this and do where similar eviction bills are in place.
For one, good cause eviction makes it nearly impossible of landlords to get rid of their tenants, even bad tenants. In situations with multiple rentals in one unit, any constantly disruptive tenant that is causing issues with other tenants could not be evicted without a lengthy court process, that may or may not satisfy the good cause requirement. This leaves the other tenants to the whim of the disruptive one. One can see how this would lead to situations with good, reliable tenants leaving and problematic ones taking over.
If a landlord has to make repairs, renovate, or get the home ready to sell, they will have to do so with the cooperation of the tenants. If the tenants refuse to cooperate, you get into dicey territory of forcing yourself into your own home, or being unable to evict a tenant at the end of their lease to do necessary repairs and renovations. Want to change your housing unit to meet New York rental unit code? Well Johnny isn’t leaving, so you’re going to have to get him out first if you want to make your house up to code.
You can just fix these things in court, right?
A piece of irony here is the progressives commonly and often correctly are the most vocal critics of inherit bias and inefficiency in the court system but rely on expanding the scope of its implementation for their policies. With an already massive backlogged housing court, there is no telling when a landlord could get rid of their tenant who is failing to pay the rent or violating their lease. With good cause in place, there has to be a stated reason to take the tenant out, and that reason has to be heard by a judge and create a further backlog of court cases for our already lagged-behind court system.
Again, I will stress how bad this will be for tenants too. Landlords would be more reluctant to rent to tenants they perceive as being high-risk and raise the bar for who they are willing to rent to because they will have less power to end the tenancy. That means people with poor past tenant histories, low credit scores, and yes Ritti Singh: felony convicts and illegal immigrants. Also, if the housing court is jammed up with good cause eviction cases, landlords won’t be able to evict tenants who are not paying the rent and may raise rents on the other tenants to make up for lost income. So even if you didn’t give your landlord any issues, you may see your rent raise as a result of good cause policy.
Good Cause Eviction laws have always failed.
A good cause bill is good cause for driving investors away — they will look to other states to build or other types of investment entirely than a new housing complex in your home state. The units will be harder to sell within a market with less buyers. There will be fewer, more expensive rental options for tenants. California is already seeing this, with some of the most extensive eviction-protection laws passed in 2019, and four years of that have only led to an exacerbated housing crisis in 2023. New Jersey, the other state progressives point to as having the strongest eviction laws, has a severe shortage of rental units from years of driving investors away. Wherever good cause goes, it brings with it a worsening hosing crisis.
The place that will be hit the hardest by good cause might be New York City. On top of what strict eviction clauses would do to drive investors away, rent control landlords competition with subsidized housing has led to units being left vacant. As writer Howard Husock has elegantly pointed out:
The city has more public and subsidized “affordable” housing (both in total and per capita) than any other — yet it’s in a perennial housing crisis. Nearly a million apartments are “rent-stabilized” — under a regime so onerous and discouraging of investment that some 60,000 are just being left vacant by their owners, rather than lose money on them.
While rent control can be good in the short term, it makes cities more expensive, fueling gentrification, and more future homelessness. It can be convinced that it is one of the factors driving New York City’s massive homeless population.
To call it good cause “eviction” may be misleading. It’s more “good cause for non-renewal”. It denies property owners the right to not renew a lease once it expires. It ties the landlord to potentially infinite renewal, and that is completely unnecessary. Most of the time, a tenant and a landlord who signed a mutually contractual agreement will extend the lease and be content. Both parties consent, and both parties can withdraw consent. By forcing the landlord to extend the deal, you run into a host of unintended consequences, and would only worsen New York’s hosing crisis.
We all agree that there is a housing crisis in New York. Property tax reform, losing certain zoning laws, and encouraging investors to rental properties other than high-end apartments are some of the viable solutions that are generally mostly agreed upon, but seldom enacted. Everything is faster in New York, except progress. We will see what comes of budget negotiations in New York, but for all who live in The Empire State, let’s hope it’s not good cause.
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