Categories: New York State
Josh Goldfein, Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society, discusses the new rights of scattered site supportive housing providers under Part J of the Tenant Stabilization and Protection Act.
Tenant Stabilization and Protection Act, Part J
Rent Stabilization and Scattered Site Supportive Housing
What are the changes to the rent stabilization laws that impact scattered site supportive housing?
Following a realignment of the State legislature last year, lawmakers in Albany passed historic and sweeping rent law reforms. One part of the new laws will affect tenants in scattered site supportive housing units: Part J. That part of the new rent laws eliminates the previous exemption for supportive housing providers from rent stabilization protections. It also makes clear that both the tenant occupant and the nonprofit that secured the unit are tenants; so if the apartment is rent regulated, both parties are protected as rent regulated tenants.
What rights are now afforded to nonprofit providers, and what rights are afforded to tenant occupants?
As rent-regulated tenants, providers and their clients both have rights that promote stability and long-term tenancies. Tenants can only be evicted for cause, such as if they don’t pay the rent, or if they create a nuisance. When a lease expires, landlords of rent-regulated units are required to offer tenants renewal leases with rent increases limited by the annual orders of the City’s Rent Guidelines Board. Landlords cannot reduce the building services provided to tenants.
How do you know if the apartment you are renting is rent stabilized? How do you start the process of identifying if the apartments are rent stabilized?
The rent regulatory status of a New York City apartment is a legal question. An apartment may be rent-regulated even if no one knows that it is, or it may become rent regulated because of the actions of the landlord. A good rule of thumb is that if the building was built before 1974 and has six or more units, it is probably rent regulated. An easy way to confirm whether an apartment is rent regulated is to ask the NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for a printout of the rent history of the unit. This will show what the landlord has told the State about the apartment. You can also check on the HPD website by address which will tell you when the building was constructed and how many units are in the building.
What happens if the apartment should be rent stabilized, but we didn’t receive a rent stabilized lease rider and nothing in the lease refers to its stabilized status?
No worries! Since rent stabilization rights are created by law, and not by leases, it doesn’t matter whether there is a written lease or not or whether the landlord included the rent stabilization lease rider with the lease. If the apartment is rent stabilized, the lease and rider – or lack thereof – can’t change the rights of the tenant.
What options do you have if you don’t get a proper lease renewal?
You can always ask the landlord for a renewal lease, or for one that lists the right names. But if the landlord doesn’t give you a proper renewal lease, you may not want to ask for one.
Why? It seems counter-intuitive, but it is the landlord who is worse off for failing to send a renewal lease to a rent-regulated tenant. A rent-stabilized tenant’s rights don’t change if the landlord doesn’t send the lease, but the landlord can’t collect any increase in the rent until they send a proper lease. So if the landlord doesn’t send a lease renewal, the tenant’s position is exactly the same – including the rent level -- but the landlord is losing out on a possible rent increase.
Do the new rights afforded in the law apply to apartments rented or renewed before the law passed on June 14th?
Yes, the law is retroactive and applies to current units, although the current rent remains in effect until there is a vacancy in the apartment. Since both the nonprofit provider and the client are both tenants, the apartment is not “vacant” unless both have surrendered possession.
What should your lease renewal look like?
If the landlord is following the proper format, the lease and any paperwork that comes with it will have the names of the tenants and the amount of any increase for a one- or two-year renewal (as set by the Rent Guidelines Board).
What rights do you have if you don’t have a current lease and have been renting month to month?
For the reasons discussed above, if the apartment is rent stabilized, that will be true whether you have a lease or not. If the landlord does not offer a proper renewal, the rent stays the same until they do.
If a nonprofit is trying to rent a new apartment for scattered site supportive housing, can the landlord refuse because it is a “program?” Under what conditions can the landlord refuse to rent to us?
It is illegal in New York for landlords of most residential buildings to discriminate on the basis of the prospective tenant’s source of income. If a landlord tells you they don’t rent to “programs” or accept subsidies, you can contact the City’s Human Rights Commission, the Source of Income discrimination unit of the Human Resources Administration, or a civil rights lawyer to discuss possible remedies.
Does this change incentivize landlords to continue to rent to nonprofits? If so, how?
As discussed above, the law provides that the rent in the nonprofit’s lease remains the base rent for the duration of the tenancy, but once the nonprofit leaves, the next tenant can review the rent history and challenge the rent charged to the nonprofit. In many cases, legal rents will be lower for the next tenant than they are for the current nonprofit tenant. So the landlord will likely be better off keeping the nonprofit as their tenant for as long as possible.
How did the law impact preferential rents?
Under the rent law reforms, if there is a preferential rent in place, it becomes the legal rent for the rest of that tenant’s tenancy.
Are there any other aspects of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 that will impact supportive housing providers or tenants?
The cumulative effect of the rent law reforms is to change the dynamic of landlord-tenant relations in rent stabilized buildings. Under the old rules, the landlord had an incentive to evict the tenant or not renew the lease, because the turnover in tenancies gave the landlord the opportunity to dramatically increase the rent. That incentive is now gone since the tenant is rent stabilized, so landlords are no longer as interested in turning over apartments.