E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy has achieved a significant victory in nullifying Local Law F of Albany law. The firm represented a group of Albany landlords in the case of Pusatere v. City of Albany et al., which was initially seen before the New York State Supreme Court in Albany County. The case was later appealed to the Appellate Division, Third Department. In June 2022, New York State Supreme Court Justice Christina L. Ryba issued a summary judgment decision that struck down the City of Albany's "Good Cause Eviction Law.” After a fiercely contested appeal argued by the firm in January 2023, the Appellate Division issued a unanimous Decision & Opinion on Thursday, March 2, 2023, affirming their victory.
Summary and Review of Pusatere v. City of Albany et al.
The panel of Third Department judges nullified the City of Albany’s “Good Cause Eviction Law,” stating that New York property laws preempted and canceled them. The court agreed with landlords that the law infringed on the protected rights of property owners.
New York State law allows almost all landlords to evict tenants who refuse to leave after their lease expires or fail to pay rent as agreed (with certain exceptions under "rent control" or "rent stabilization" programs). The invalid law sought to eliminate those grounds for eviction for Albany landlords. If allowed to stand, the law would require landlords to provide a good cause beyond the mere termination of a lease before they were allowed to evict a tenant or present the most recent residential occupancy permit during an eviction proceeding. Landlords were required to offer tenants renewal leases and prevented the alteration of terms from the original lease if they held over after expiration. The law also interfered with landlords' rights to increase rent and terminate month-to-month tenancies upon 30 days' notice.
The nullified law only offered a few exceptions under its good cause protections, such as criminal activity by tenants, chronic loud noises or odors, garbage, or similar nuisances created by tenants. The court also found that certain sections of Local Law F were inconsistent with state law because they required landlords to prove the additional element of "good cause" before evicting a tenant, which restricted landlords' access to legal protections and limited their right to evict, as provided by law.
Positive Outcome and Resolution After Arguments
E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy argued the law as written robbed landlords of protections provided by New York law. They further contended that the Albany law conflicted with New York State Law and was therefore barred by the preemption doctrine. The unanimous Appellate Division agreed with them on all fronts and declared that the "Good Cause Eviction Law" was null and void because its limitations on lease non-renewals and 5% rent restrictions violated the landlord's state-law rights. According to foundational principles outlined in the New York State Constitution, local laws that prohibit or curtail provisions and protections expressly allowed by State Law are deemed illegal and void. Due to these serious conflicts between provisions in the “Good Clause Eviction Law” and relevant state laws, the court nullified the clause as preempted by conflict.
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