Unconscionable rent increases on the table in New Paltz

Village of New Paltz trustees are continuing to explore ways to shore up protections for tenants in a variety of ways.  This began with the introduction of a “good-cause eviction” bill, which combined a new right to renew leases with several upgrades to the rental registry rules, including one that would preclude landlords from collecting rent from tenants if there were serious safety issues found in any of the landlord’s rental units.  Trustees opted to pull apart the variety of issues in that omnibus bill, to address them separately.  They are holding off on a right to renew leases, to see if a law with similar language — in effect now in Albany — will be challenged in court, and how that will play out.  There’s now been a bill drafted around the phrase “unconscionable rent increase,” which has gotten mixed reactions.

The crux of this law would be to empower tenants not to pay a rent increase deemed “unconscionable.”  It would entail sending notice to the landlord to that effect, and the landlord’s recourse would be to file suit and have a judge decide what’s conscionable and what’s not.  No specific penalties or consequences are laid out in the current draft.

Local real estate broker Matt Eyler pointed out that “unconscionable rent” is also in that Albany law, and suggested that this, too, should be held to avoid asking Village taxpayers to foot legal bills in defense of this idea.  Eyler offered up instead that a database could be compiled of information voluntarily provided by landlords about their plans for upcoming rent increases.  Mayor Tim Rogers, while appreciative of the idea, can’t imagine a way to do that without landlords actually colluding to set rents.

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Brahvan Ranga, a representative of the advocacy group “For the Many,” advised that there wouldn’t be support from that group for a law that didn’t include explicit protection against eviction.  The ability of a property owner to go to court to try to have a tenant removed is a “power dynamic” that does not allow tenants to negotiate rents with “peace of mind” that no retaliation would result.

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