For Rent

There is currently a movement in New York State to pass “right to renew’ legislation (like they have had in NJ for the past forty years).  This legislation would give tenants a ‘right to renew’ their leases unless there is proper cause for removing the tenant. 

I wanted to share my story of what it feels like to be ‘no cause evicted.’ For that is what I am enduring right now.  I am a long-time Ithacan and a long-time renter.  I have rented a room from John Guttridge and his company Urban Core for the past 4 years.  We have had a friendly relationship.  He even has commended stewardship of the building I live in – helping new people learn the ropes, encourage positive communication, etc. 

This August finds me, like all of us, in the depths of disruptive pandemic, just trying to keep positive and keep moving forward in life.  Then one day I get an email that informs me, in very cold and legal language that I have 90 days to leave.  My lease is not being renewed. 

No conversation. No discussion. No negotiation.  Just a landlord seemingly itching to redo the kitchen. No cause.  After 4 years of being a great tenant. You have 90 days to vacate.  In the fall. In Ithaca.  Where there is minimal, if any, housing stock to choose from.

I asked over email for an explanation and I did not hear back for two whole weeks.  And then what I received was a vague and unclear explanation.  

In four years, I have not received one complaint from the landlord against me as a tenant. In fact, I would argue that I have been a model tenant.  But the point here is that – there is no cause for evicting me.  And I feel compelled to note the seeming hypocrisy of John Guttridge and Urban Core, whose mission statement reads, in part: We focus relentlessly on the success of our tenants.  We focus relentlessly on the success of our tenants.  What?  I feel like, if anything, my landlord is undercutting my success in life right now.  

Is there a word yet for greenwashing your business, but in a pro-community sense, where a business flaunts their pro-community image, while behind the scenes it is more a case of being pro-community when it is convenient?  Other tenants out there, please note: if your landlord tells you he needs to “do a walk through with his design team,” that is a huge red flag.  That means that he has wants to redo your place.  If only I had seen the warning signs.

Have you ever tried looking for a place in Ithaca in the fall?  It is sparse. And depressing.  Anyone who knows the Ithaca rental market knows that there is very little housing stock on the market this time of year.  Being forced to leave your home with only three months’ notice is just not viable in Ithaca in the fall.

The lack of local options has got me looking into a move to Pittsburgh.  These little displacements.  One displacement here.  Another there.  They add up.  And Ithaca changes.  These ripple through the community.  They change the character of cities.   These evictions add up.  They displace.  And they send a portion of our Ithaca population to other cities.  

There are many like me.  Forced to move.  Forced to find another city to call home. Is this the Ithaca we want?  

Please support the rights of tenants.  Please support the ‘right to renew’ in New York State.  Where there is no longer honor to rely on, we must build rules. 

(1) comment

Sanjay Behuria

All the clauses in the right to renew are natural principles of doing business of renting. Society does not lay down laws for or against natural principles. A continuing tenant (bad word) is always better for the landlord (bad word) than a turnover. It is when matters get out of hand that eviction becomes the last straw.

I have never evicted anyone since I was in this business and rented about twenty apartments. Look at what I am facing because of the blanket moratorium. The lawmakers have had sufficient time to iterate to separate the wheat from the chaff. Therefore the agenda of the government is different from protecting genuine lessees.

One lessee hasn't paid a dime for rent or utilities since June 2020.

One lessee left voluntarily and has left me one year's worth of rent as repairs and six months of no rent because of the time it takes to repair.

Two tenants stayed for five months in a brand new apartment and left me a month worth of repairs.

Therefore the right to rent proposal is much ado about nothing. It is a waste of time to debate natural principles with taxpayers' money. They are trying to bring in a rent control act through the backdoor that will harm every player in the rental ecosystem. One day the law will be repealed after irreparable damages due to its unsustainability. The biggest losers will be very that they are trying to protect because homeownership for renting will be bad business.

They are trying to limit rent increases to 1.5 times the CPI. The CPI has eight categories and over two hundred items. Some will go up, and some will go down. The average has no relationship to a renting business income and expenses. The rent control act is a camouflage to hide the lawmakers' failures to provide adequate housing. This law will not affect the big lessors because they rent to students and have a natural turnover. The law will adversely affect the small homeowners who rent and provide an essential service to keep a roof over the heads of those who cannot or will not own a home.

If they wish to pass this law, then they must take care of all essential items across the spectrum. Gas, food, electricity, taxes must all be frozen at the CPI level. Only wages will be allowed to go up. No one will make any money. More money will chase fewer goods, and money will become worthless with stagflation.

Here is a sane suggestion. Set up a committee for intermediation between lessors and lessees. Either party can bring their issues to the committee. The committee will have advisory powers to suggest a solution that may work for both parties. Such a move will not be against free-market principles and our Constitutional rights. However, it will act as a deterrent for either party to bring up flimsy causes in the public domain. No one likes to wash their dirty linen in public.

Welcome to the discussion.

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