Many online articles list the best states in the US for landlords. While states like Texas and Arizona almost always make these Top 10 lists, one state that you won’t ever see listed is New York. The reason New York isn’t considered a landlord friendly state is because there are multiple laws in place that provide tenants with numerous rights. There are countless examples of it taking 6+ months or even years to evict a tenant who has stopped paying rent.

Since numerous legal issues can affect both tenants and landlords, one common area of interest is in regards to the eviction of tenants who are in a rent-controlled, or rent stabilized unit. Because many people are interested in learning more about this issue, we thought it would be helpful to cover it in detail.

Understanding the Basics of Rent Controlled and Rent Stabilized Units

Before we can fully explore the grounds for eviction of rent controlled or rent stabilized tenants, it’s helpful to understand exactly what these terms mean. While both involve rent regulation, the specific provisions are different.

Although it seems like rent-controlled apartments get the most media attention, rent-stabilized apartments are far more common. According to data from the 2011 NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey, there were around 1 million rent-stabilized apartments. In comparison, there were less than 40,000 rent-controlled apartments in New York City.

For an apartment to be rent controlled, it must be in a building that was built before February 1947. The other main criteria for rent-controlled apartments is that the tenant or a tenant’s lawful successor has to have been continuously living in the apartment since July 1st of 1971. It’s worth noting that in the case of an apartment that’s located in a one or two family home, continuous occupancy must go all the way back to April 1st of 1953.

The definition of a rent-stabilized unit is one that’s in a building with at least six units and was built between 2/1/47 and 1/1/74. In some cases, rent-stabilized apartments can be found in post-1974 buildings as a result of special tax benefits. Rent stabilization can also occur when a previously rent-controlled apartment becomes vacant.

While rent stabilization has had numerous effects since it was instituted in 1969, the two main objectives of this program are to prevent sharp rent increases and to provide tenants with the right to renew their leases.

How Does Rent Control and Stabilization Effect Evictions?

Now that we’ve covered both rent control and rent stabilization, it’s time to take a look at how these issues impact evictions. In the state of New York, an eviction requires going through a court proceeding and obtaining a judgment of possession. If this judgment is granted by the court, the eviction can be carried out by a constable, marshal or sheriff.

With regards to rent control and stabilization evictions, there are situations where DHCR approval must be granted before taking the eviction to court. However, there are six different scenarios in which a landlord can begin the eviction proceedings without needing to seek DHCR approval. Those scenarios are:

  1. Non-payment of rent
  2. Failure to cure a violation of a substantial obligation of the tenancy
  3. Damaging the housing accommodation
  4. Refusing the owner access to make needed repairs
  5. Occupancy of the housing accommodation by the tenant is illegal because of the requirements of the law, and the landlord is subject to civil or criminal penalties, therefore, or both
  6. The tenant is using or permitting such housing accommodation to be used for an immoral or illegal purpose

There are also three scenarios in which a landlord can refuse to renew a lease for a rent controlled or stabilized apartment without needing to get DHCR approval.

Those scenarios are:

  1. Occupancy by the owner or member of the owner’s immediate family member for personal use
  2. Recovery of the unit by a not for profit institution for use in connection with its charitable or educational purposes
  3. The tenant is not using the unit as a primary residence

To clarify, these scenarios do not guarantee that a landlord will be successful in evicting a tenant or being able not to renew their lease. All it means is that court proceedings can be brought forward without first needing to go through DHCR.

Regarding situations that always require DHCR approval, the four worth noting are:

  1. Withdrawal from the rental market
  2. Demolition
  3. The elimination of unsafe housing to either rehabilitate or demolish it under state or federal laws
  4. Conversion to cooperative or condominium ownership

As previously mentioned, rent control or stabilized tenants are protected from arbitrary rent increases by landlords. These tenants also have the right to renewal leases. And in the case of tenants who are senior citizens (at least 62) or disabled, they cannot be evicted on the grounds of owner occupancy.

Taking Over a Lease and Deregulation

In the case of a tenant passing away, protection from eviction may be claimed by a traditional immediate family member, a non-traditional family member, and adult lifetime partner. In any of these scenarios, the individual eligible for succession has the burden of proof to show that they do indeed have succession rights.

For an apartment that’s currently rent controlled or stabilized, there are two main ways for it to become deregulated. The first is if the owner or an immediate family member of the owner has a compelling need to make the apartment their primary residence. The other possibility is through luxury decontrol. This type of deregulation can take the form of either high rent-high income deregulation, or high rent-vacancy deregulation. With either option, the apartment must meet exact guidelines.

The Bottom Line for Rent Controlled and Stabilized Apartments

Tenants in this situation need to uphold their end of the deal, residing in a rent controlled or stabilized apartment does provide additional legal protections. As a result of those protections, it can take longer and cost more for a landlord to evict someone in this type of apartment than the already lengthy process that’s involved in any New York City eviction.

If you have any other questions about the often-confusing Rent Controlled or Stabilized laws we recommend consulting an attorney who specializes in this field.

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