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State judge tosses Albany’s ‘good-cause’ measure
A state Supreme Court judge last month threw out Albany’s good-cause eviction law, a ruling that could threaten a similar measure that Beacon’s City Council passed in March.
In a lawsuit filed by Albany landlords after the city adopted a good-cause provision last year, Judge Christina Ryba ruled on June 30 that state property and tenant protection laws supersede local regulations. The decision represents another setback for housing advocates in Beacon and other municipalities.
Groups such as Housing Justice For All called the good-cause laws approved in Albany, Kingston, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, along with Beacon, critical protection for renters from predatory landlords. But, in addition to Ryba’s decision, New York lawmakers failed to pass a statewide good-cause eviction law before the Legislature’s 2021-22 session ended last month.
Ryba wrote in her decision that “while local governments possess broad authority to enact legislation” protecting municipal residents, “it is well-established that they cannot adopt laws that are inconsistent” with the state’s.
The judge’s ruling is notable because Beacon city attorneys advised the City Council not to adopt a good-cause law for the same reason earlier this year. However, after months of debate, including public testimony overwhelmingly in favor of the law, the council in March approved, by a 6-1 vote, a measure that establishes conditions that must be met before a landlord can evict a tenant or raise rent more than 5 percent in a year.
But, as Ryba wrote, a landlord’s right to increase rent “is not conditioned upon a showing of good cause.” The judge also indicated that imposing a good-cause requirement for eviction when a tenant’s lease has expired conflicts with state regulations.
Landlords have argued that good-cause laws restrict their ability to adjust rents based on their overhead costs. Critics also say the laws create “forever” rental agreements which are difficult to end.
The Troy law firm that represented the Albany landlords has a similar suit pending in Newburgh.
Beacon’s city attorneys said in January that they would not defend the city if it faces litigation related to good-cause eviction. That hasn’t happened yet, and on Thursday (July 7), City Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said he hopes legislators will pass a statewide law when they reconvene in January. “I don’t see a need to change or abandon our law at this time,” he said. “It’s helping tenants.”