Report: Tenant Laws Fail to Protect New York Immigrants

Tenants from Brooklyn to Buffalo are facing rent increases, abusive landlords and an extreme shortage of affordable housing. (Photo via El Diario)

Over two million immigrants living in New York State lack basic tenant protections. This makes them more likely to be the victims of abusive landlords who frequently increase their rent. Consequently, they often live in overcrowded conditions.

This is one of the conclusions drawn by a report entitled “Protecting Immigrant Homes: The Importance of Strengthening And Expanding Tenant Protections for Immigrant New Yorkers,” released this week by the organization Make the Road New York (MRNY).

The study documents in detail the situation surrounding affordable housing, and collects the testimony of several immigrants who face great difficulties to access and find affordable housing in New York State. (…)

“It seems only the owners have rights when it comes to housing. As a tenant, what can I do? I don’t have any rights. It is too hard to find another place and too expensive, so I simply suck it up and stay here,” said Teodora. A renter in Westchester, she endures terrible conditions living in an attic, whose owner refuses to address the apartment’s unsafe conditions. Instead, he has increased her rent twice in the past three years without prior notice.

According to the report, more than two million immigrants have no basic tenant protections despite the fact that 47 percent of all rent-regulated apartments in New York City are occupied by families whose head of household is foreign-born.

Make the Road New York member Berónica Cedeño, a tenant at risk of being displaced from her rent-regulated apartment in Queens, said: “I have lived in that building for decades, and it frustrates us that they are trying to use this loophole to push us out. Where are families like mine supposed to go when we cannot afford the supposedly affordable housing available in our city?”

As the data and testimonies in this report reveal, the pattern appears not only in New York City but also in the suburbs and the rest of the state. (…)

“Across New York State, five million renters like me have zero renter protections. For my family, this means at the end of my current six-month lease, my landlord can evict my family without ‘just cause’ or raise my rent again by any amount he chooses,” said Alexandra Sanjuan, a tenant living in Suffolk, Long Island.

The MTRNY member added that she may be forced to vacate her apartment and possible even leave her community because she lacks these basic protections. “Most landlords here want between $2,800 and $3,000 per month, a rent my family cannot afford,” she said.

The report states that immigrant New Yorkers are particularly at risk due to the threats they receive from landlords in rent-regulated housing. While immigrants represent 38 percent of the population of New York City, 47 percent of all such housing is occupied by families with a foreign-born head of household. Exploitation on the part of landlords who benefit from the so-called “vacancy bonus” and the legal loopholes in the rent stabilization system leave immigrant families in grave danger.


Report Recommendations

First, the study made by MRNY recommends that New York expand tenant rights to cover the entire state. To achieve this, it must:

  • Pass new “good cause” eviction legislation to bring renters’ rights to tenants in smaller buildings and manufactured home communities.
  • Remove geographic restrictions in Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA), and
  • End vacancy decontrol (S2591 / A1198)

Second, that New York must end rent hikes and tenant harassment caused by loopholes in rent stabilization. These irregularities can be solved by:

  • Making preferential rents last for the duration of the tenancy (S2845 / A6285-18)
  • Eliminating the vacancy bonus (S185 / A2351)
  • Eliminating permanent rent hikes caused by major capital improvements and individual apartment increases


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