Council Declares Support for Good Cause Eviction

Date: February 2, 2022

On January 25, 2022, the Buffalo Common Council approved a resolution in support of a New York State legislative bill for Good Cause Eviction. Read the full press release below.


For Immediate Release                                                                            
February 1, 2022                                                                                    
Contact: Sarah Wooton 716-800-1720 and Tanvier Peart 716-406-8821


Council Declares Support for Good Cause Eviction


The Buffalo Common Council voted 5-4 in favor of a resolution to support the New York State bill for Good Cause Eviction (S3082/A5573). If passed in the NYS legislature, Good Cause would prohibit eviction of tenants without a “good cause.”

“Many tenants in Buffalo don’t have leases. They rent month-to-month and can effectively be evicted for no reason at all,” said Teresa Watson, Housing Justice Organizer at PUSH Buffalo. “You can pay your rent on time every month. You can be a nice, quiet tenant who’s taking care of the property. You can do all of that, and your landlord can still tell you to leave your home with as little as 30 days’ notice—often because they want to hike the rent.”

Advocates for the resolution explained that tenants’ vulnerability to displacement makes them afraid to speak up about poor housing conditions. “We have a lot of people – citizens, residents and immigrants – who live in fear: fear of retaliation. Fear of not being able to organize because they feel that they’re going to be thrown out,” said Lucy Velez, a tenant.

Mary Lister, another tenant and an organizer with the Queen City Workers Center described, “At my current residence, we have had recurring problems with mold throughout the building. And when I have tried to talk to other tenants about this issue, a lot of them are fearful to come forward because they are very aware of the fact that there are not really strong protections for tenants who want to speak up for their rights and want to ask for repairs to be made.” Advocates for the bill say that enacting Good Cause would give tenants the protection they need to feel comfortable bringing concerns forward to their landlords.

Good Cause would also protect tenants from eviction after large rent increases. The bill prevents landlords from evicting tenants based on non-payment of rent if the landlord has increased the rent more than 3% of the rent or 150% of annual inflation, whichever is larger. For example, in 2022, a landlord would be able to raise a unit’s $800 rent to $853 based on the inflation rate. Tanvier Peart, Director of Policy Advancement at the Partnership for the Public Good, explained “landlords need to be able to increase rent slightly to cover the cost of inflation and to be able to take care of the property over time. However, suddenly doubling the rent on a unit and displacing the tenants who live there is unacceptable. Especially in the current moment— when rents are rising across the state—we need to prevent price gouging and the inhumane displacement that comes with it.”

Dan Corbitt, Associate Director at Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), explained that this is a problem he sees. For example, one client he’d worked with lived in his apartment for 15 years and had always paid his rent on time. He didn’t bother anyone and took good care of the property. But despite this, his landlord decided to raise the rent by $500 per month. And when the tenant wasn’t able to pay this increase, the landlord evicted him. “Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done under the law to keep this tenant in his home. The landlord hadn’t violated any law. This pattern is being repeated throughout the city.”

“The same thing happened to me,” Teresa Watson added, “I even used to help my landlady take out her trash and shovel her driveway, but I was forced to leave when she raised the rent from $800 to $1400.”

If Good Cause passes at the state level, evictions would still be allowed. Good causes for eviction include a tenant damaging the unit, being a nuisance, using the unit for illegal purposes, and not paying rent (as long as this isn’t the result of an unconscionable rent increase). If a landlord decided that they or their family members wanted to live in the unit, they would also have good cause to evict.

“I am interested in saving people who do the right thing, who pay their rent on time. People who pay their rent on time and are good tenants should be afforded to be in their homes peacefully,” said Councilman Wyatt at the Legislative Committee meeting. “Those individuals who are bad actors–the landlord still has the ability to evict them, and [the landlord] should have that ability.”

Advocates say that responsible landlords don’t need to worry about this legislation. “Honestly, this is not a new way of doing things for good landlords,” said Sarah Wooton, Community Researcher at Partnership for the Public Good. “Good landlords take care of their properties, they listen to their tenants about repair issues, and they don’t suddenly double the rent to rake in profits.”

New York State would not be the first place to enact Good Cause legislation. New Hampshire, New Jersey, California, Philadelphia, Washington DC and others have similar legislation.