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EXCLUSIVE: What are the pros and cons of ‘good cause’ eviction?

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

As New York housing advocates demand state lawmakers pass a bill to keep landlords from evicting renters without “good cause,” a new report cautioned them about getting what they wish for.

The New York University report found good cause eviction can create long-term challenges for tenants and landlords, including discouraging maintenance investments in new and existing housing, increasing costs to resolve disputes and landlords screening tenants more rigorously.

Vicki Been, Furman Center faculty director at New York University, said alternatives could help improve landlord-tenant relations.

“One would be expanded access to legal counsel,” Been pointed out. “What we know is when tenants have counsel, they’re much better able to raise the kinds of issues that might be causing them to withhold rent; maintenance issues, other kinds of problems.”

She added tenants are much more likely to go to housing court and fight for themselves rather than give up quickly. Other alternatives include exemptions for different kinds of buildings and increasing the range of rents deemed unreasonable, to prevent sharp increases. Several New York towns have declared housing emergencies due to high rent prices, part of what is driving statewide eviction increases.

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Good cause eviction’s financial effects stem from landlords being required to prove in housing court their reasons for not renewing a renter’s lease. It means housing court cases could run beyond the average 133 days to settle. Been noted the protections do not help people looking for apartments and could affect housing availability.

“It doesn’t add anything to the supply,” Been pointed out. “Indeed, it may limit the supply, in the sense that tenants who enjoy these protections may stay in a bigger apartment, even once their kids are grown, or those kinds of things.”

She added housing reforms like good cause eviction must be paired with other regulatory changes.

Not all New Yorkers agree with how they want state government to handle this. A Marist Poll found some people want rental assistance vouchers prioritized, while almost one-quarter said they want more funding for new rental housing development.