New rent laws protect tenants from predatory practices

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/21/2019, 3:52 p.m.
New York City launched a campaign on new tenant protections Monday.
Housing/apartment Bill Moore photo

Renters make up just over 65 percent of New York City residents, and a new set of laws aims to protect them and make it easier to rent an apartment.

This week, the city launched a campaign to educate tenants on their new rights under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. The campaign gives renters the information they need to hold their landlords accountable via ads on subways, bus shelters, small businesses, Staten Island ferry terminals, community newspapers, Link kiosks and online.

New state legislation this summer gave tenants new protections. The new laws make it harder for landlords to evict tenants and strengthened protections for New Yorkers living in rent regulated apartments. The laws are enforced by the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal and include protection from large security deposits and onerous application fees, limits on how much rent can increase, and limits on how much landlords can charge regulated tenants for building improvements.

“In order to fully benefit from the Home Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, renters in New York City need to know about the protections they have and need to feel empowered to advocate for themselves. This campaign is designed to do just that,” said Jackie Bray, director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

Application fees for an apartment are limited to fees for background checks and credit checks, and now cannot exceed $20. Landlords are also now required to provide notice to tenants if they intend to raise the rent more than five percent or if they do not intend to renew the lease. Unlawful evictions are now a misdemeanor punishable by civil penalty fines of $1,000-$10,000 per violation.

Many tenants are evicted for non-payment of rent. Changes to the law make it easier for families to reverse eviction decisions for non-payment of rent if they are able to come up with the money before the city marshal arrives.

Late fees can only be charged if rent is received more than five days after the due date established in the lease, and cannot exceed $50 or five percent of the rent, whichever is less.

Tenants can contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal or find a full list of the new laws on NYC.gov/tenantprotection.

“The first step in ensuring tenants’ rights was putting these important measures in place such as protections against rent increases and unlawful evictions; now we must do our part to educate the public about their rights and all of the resources available to them,” sais State Sen. James Sanders. “I look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants and the city’s Public Engagement Unit to spread the word.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson said the new laws are historic and keep more New Yorkers in their homes.

“Given the breadth and detail of these new laws, tenants need to be fully educated of their rights to prevent being victimized by unscrupulous landlords. With the public awareness campaign launched by the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, we are ensuring that all New Yorkers know their rights as well as the new tools they can use to guarantee affordable and quality housing in New York City,” she said.