The work of two students, Allie Dentinger ’24 and Tom McCarthy ’23, is making an impact in the courts to improve housing laws for all New Yorkers.
Albany’s “Good Cause Eviction” law, enacted in 2021, was the first of its kind in New York and has since served as a model for other cities. Albany’s law prohibited evictions unless the landlord can show a “good cause” and outlined the exact parameters to do so.
A group of landlords challenged the law in Albany County Supreme Court; that court agreed with the landlords that the local law conflicted with state law on evictions and the City of Albany appealed. A stay was in place while the case was argued.
The Appellate Division, Third Department of the State Supreme Court recently issued a decision in agreement with the lower courts decision. The development puts increased pressure on tenant’s rights activists groups and state lawmakers to pass statewide good cause legislation.
Dentinger and McCarthy worked with David Crossman '17, a staff attorney in The Justice Center at Albany Law School, on an amicus brief in support of the Bleecker Terrace Tenants Association and United Tenants of Albany, an organization that helps Albany residents facing eviction.
The brief was accepted by The Third Department and of the three that were filed, it was the only one referenced directly by the court in oral arguments in January.
“The amicus brief from The Justice Center at Albany Law School raised the idea that is this case even justiciable at this point in time? There’s nothing specific, with respect to the petitioners, to show that this has impacted them [landlords] in an actual manner,” said Justice Michael C. Lynch.
On appeal, the City of Albany argued that the good cause law supplemented, rather than conflicted with, state eviction law. The City also disagreed with the landlords’ position that the Good Cause Law interfered with the landlords’ right to evict a tenant who holds over, or stays past the expiration of the lease without permission of the landlord.
“When you help people through groups like United Tenants, you feel a connection to the people that you're working with. They’re your neighbors,” he said. “There's definitely opportunities here and there's always something going on, something new, or something changing to be part of.”
Dentinger became interested in tenant organizing and housing rights while she was a public school teacher in western New York. Eventually, she found that work to be her true passion and a law degree would help her make a difference. Seeing the work done in The Justice Center stood out to her and as a non-traditional student, it was important she could focus on what she cares about right away.
“It was pretty exciting to get to see the court case, but also to see the other side of the coin that there's real people, that are my neighbors and people that I help organize that need this law in place,” she said.