Ulster renters, landlords continue to disagree amidst housing crisis

Public opinion was split on a proposed Ulster County Good Cause Eviction law during a lengthy public comment period at the October 19 Ulster County Legislature meeting.

But no action was taken on the proposed statute, Local Law Number 7 of 2021, which was first proposed by Legislator Abe Uchitelle of Kingston. If enacted, the law would prevent a landlord from removing a tenant from a housing accommodation without a court order. The law also seeks to limit unreasonable rent increases and help prevent intimidation of tenants by landlords. It comes as the area struggles with a growing housing crisis that has received national attention.

Renters and housing advocates voiced support for the law while landlords voiced opposition.

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Michael Platsky, a long-time renter in both Woodstock and Saugerties spoke in support to the proposed law. Platsky said he’s rented his present home for the last 10 years and has always had a good relationship with his landlord. “I’ve never been late in my rent,” he said.

But now the landlord want to sell, and Platsky fears that could force him out just as his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. He’s afraid his rent could shoot up from $1500 a month to $2500 or $3,500 a month. He said his wife was a longtime home health aide and a volunteer EMT for 15 years, while he’s been self-employed. “Please consider the rent regulation bills,” Platsky said. “I’d like you to keep my family in mind.”

Amanda Sisenstein also spoke in favor of the law. She said the housing crisis proceeded COVID-19 and that it’s a nightmare for tenants to have to keep moving whether they rent month to month, every six months or sign one-year leases. “Many have to move even though they pay rent,” she said. “Moving sucks.”

Robert Gelbach, of Saugerties, also spoke out in favor of the law, and is fearful that when the COVID-19 eviction moratorium ultimately expires there will be an enormous problem of homelessness in Ulster County. He pointed out that the law does allow prices to arise when costs arise and that it allows for the termination of leases for tenants who are disrespectful. “People who rent property need to accept responsibility and ensure prices stay reasonable.”

Nick Moran said the law doesn’t go far enough to ensure the unequal relationship between landlords and tenants is rectified.

“There should no market in housing, it’s a human right that should be provided for all,” he said. “If you allow rents to go up without being managed by the government, all the productive value goes into the landlord’s pocket. “And land values are driven by public investment.”

Landlords speak out

But several landlords taking part in the online forum see it differently, and they feel the law is too much of a one size fits all solution and will force them to further restrict who they rent out to.

Matthew Elkin, a New Paltz business owner and landlord said he acknowledges the county is facing housing market challenges, but he feels the law seeks to impose a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

He said New Paltz is not like Kingston as most rental housing stock is leased to college students who make their decisions on apartments six to nine months in advance. “There are lots of evictions in Albany, but not in New Paltz — there have only been five evictions in five years,” he said.

Bob Gabrielle, also a landlord, said he feels the law will destroy the nature of contracts between landlords and tenants, a contract that calls for neutral responsibility. He railed against a provision that would limit rent increases to five percent and that lawmakers can’t guarantee they won’t lower it to half a percent or no increase in the future.

Sharon Klein, a Marbletown real estate broker and landlord, said the law is unfair to those who would already rather keep long-term tenants. And she said it all makes it harder for her to avoid being stuck with a bad tenant. She said the proposed law made her want to enact stricter terms for tenants, such as requiring them to co-sign with a parent or friend she can sue if things go south. She said she’s also looking for higher credit scores and higher incomes to be sure she doesn’t get stuck with a tenant who can’t pay. “I’m a retired person, this is my income and the rug’s being slipped out,” she said.