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No More Holdovers? Proposed Revisions to New York Landlord-Tenant Law

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Recent blog posts have discussed the changes to the New York Landlord-Tenant Law as they relate to holdover proceedings.  Holdover proceedings occur when a tenant’s lease has expired, or when a tenant is operating on a month-to-month basis and never had a written lease for the premises being rented.Under the revised law, also known as the Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which became fully effective in October, 2019, landlords are required to give notice, under certain circumstances, of more than thirty days prior to commencing a holdover proceeding.  The termination notice, also known as a notice to quit, may require more than thirty day’s notice, which was the rule under the old law.  Experienced counsel should be familiar with the revised law and prepare the notices.

However, a recent article discusses another proposed revision to New York’s laws, which would greatly alter holdover proceedings, or, in some cases, eliminate them altogether. This proposed bill would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants without providing a “good legal reason” when a lease expires.  Under current New York law, when a tenant’s lease expires, the landlord is under no obligation to renew it, unless it is a unit subject to rent regulation.  For example, a tenant signs a one-year lease to rent a house, which is not a multiple dwelling subject to rent regulation.  When the lease expires, the landlord may decide, without providing any reason, not to offer a renewal lease.  If the tenant fails to vacate the premises after receiving the proper notices, they would be subject to a holdover proceeding, and eventual eviction.

The new proposal has been called “good cause eviction,” but it has implications beyond what it states.  Requiring a property owner to provide “good cause” when they decide not to renew a lease would in effect subject every property in New York to some type of rent regulation.  It is unclear what “good cause” would mean under this proposal.  The owner of property may simply decide that she wants to use her property for her own use, or rent to a friend or relative.  She may want to raise the rent beyond what the current tenant is willing to pay.  A landlord may simply decide it is too much trouble to have a tenant, and may simply want to keep the rental property vacant.  Under this proposal, these reasons may not be considered “good cause”, forcing an owner to continue renting to a tenant, and then being forced to offer renewal leases to that tenant in perpetuity.  “Good cause” may not be explicitly defined by the revised law, causing courts to entertain lengthy litigation to determine whether a landlord has shown “good cause” when he decides not to renew a residential lease.  As with many well-meaning proposals, the full implication of the change in the law is not being considered.

As the article in question states, only about 1 in 10 eviction proceedings are brought in New York City because a tenant is holding over, as opposed to a non-payment proceeding, which occurs when a tenant fails to pay the rent due.  By requiring a landlord to show “good cause” for failing to renew a lease, it would impose a heavy burden on landlords who decide to rent their property for a short period of time.  A Judge may decide that the tenant is entitled to a renewal lease, even if the property is not subject to rent regulation.  The obvious next step would be that a Court would then determine what the renewal rent should be, if the landlord refuses to renew the lease and fails to show “good cause” for doing so.

The revisions in the New York’s landlord-tenant law have imposed many additional requirements on landlords seeking to evict tenants, and have given tenants a greater amount of protection.  Forcing landlords to renew existing leases which are not subject to rent regulations may simply be a bridge too far.  This blog will keep its readers updated on further developments in this area.

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