New York State Landlord-Tenant Laws

Tenant Check November 14, 2019
Brooklyn bridge and Manhattan at sunny day, New York City
Avatar

author:

New York State Landlord-Tenant Laws

New York is a vast and diverse state. The state’s rental laws change regularly compared to other states. Here you will find an overview of some parts of New York State Landlord-Tenant law that are important to know for all landlords and property managers, as well as resources for some of the more complicated legislation.

Tenant Screening

The only fee that landlords can charge when processing applications is to cover a credit or background check, or $20, whichever is less. The actual inquiry must be completed before charging the applicant, and an invoice or receipt must be provided. If the potential tenant can provide a copy of their own credit or background check having been conducted in the last 30 days, that fee is no longer applicable.

Discrimination

New York state discrimination laws restrict landlords from refusing to rent a property to, renew a lease for, or in any way discriminate against anyone based on their:

  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • Nation of Origin
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Marital Status
  • Familial Status

New York City has additional protection against discrimination.

Rent Rules and Rent Stabilization

Buildings of six or more units constructed before 1974 are applicable for rent stabilization. 
New York rent control laws are complex. It is best, if you have any questions, to go to the source. The New York State Office of Rent Administration has assistance and services available for owners and managers. The Attorney General’s office also offers in-depth materials around Rent Control and Rent Stabilization.
For properties not covered under rent stabilization, recent legislation changed the required time to notify a resident of a rent increase, if the increase is 5% over the existing rent:

  • Tenant of 1 year – a 30-day notice
  • Tenant of 1-2 years – a 60-day notice
  • Tenant of 2+ years – a 90-day notice

Rent may not be increased as retaliation or discrimination.
Late rent fees are limited to $50 and can only be charged until 5 days after the rent was due.

Security Deposits

It is not required for landlords to charge a security deposit. If a security deposit is charged, information about the bank where it is being held must be provided to the tenant. Landlords are only permitted to charge one month’s rent as a security deposit. It must then be returned within 14 days after the tenant has moved out and returned the keys. 
All or part of the deposit may be withheld if the property is damaged beyond “wear and tear” or another aspect of the lease agreement was breached. 
The opportunity to tour the property and document any damage or defects must be offered to the potential tenant. Deductions for these agreed-upon items may not be deducted from the security deposit when they move out.
Interest on security deposits must be paid on rental properties larger than six units. Deposits must be kept in an interest-earning account and that interest must, in turn, go to the tenant when they move out. 
Landlords are allowed to collect additional money for a deposit if the rent increases or the lease is renewed at a higher rent. This additional deposit is capped at whatever the new rent is.

Entering the Property and Repairs

It is advantageous to repair property promptly. In the state of New York, tenants may withhold rent until repairs are made if the damage means the property doesn’t meet structural, health, and safety standards.
To ensure that the property is livable, safe, and sanitary the landlord needs to be reachable and accountable to the tenant to make the repairs. You, as the landlord, may be out a tenant and potential rent payments if repairs aren’t done in a timely fashion. Tenants can also choose to “repair and deduct”. This means that the tenant will take on the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent. It is crucial that they inform you beforehand that this is what they are about to do.

Lease Renewal

These laws vary for Rent Control, Rent Stabilized, and unregulated properties. For unregulated apartments, new leases must be agreed upon at the end of a lease term. Automatic renewal clauses may be incorporated into the lease. 
Units that fall into rent stabilization requirements have the option for a one- or two-year renewal with the same terms as the original lease. Specific laws or regulations may mandate changes, but that is the only time the terms of the lease can change, for example, Section 8 subsidy.
Things to remember

  • Tenants have 60 days to accept the new lease
  • Landlords have 30 days to execute the lease
  • The lease is not executed, and rent increase need not be paid until the lease has been returned

No reason need be given if the landlord chooses to end a tenancy. An appropriate notice must be provided. If the tenant fails to leave the property, then eviction is permissible.

Eviction

Notifications must be provided to tenants regarding any lease violations. Tenants must be allowed 10 days to remedy any lease violation before proceeding with a notice of termination. They then have 30 days to vacate the property before being evicted.
Do not do any of the following if you are forced to evict:

  • Interfere with the tenant’s use of the property
  • Fail to follow proper eviction procedures
  • Evict tenant for not paying rent when they have their rent paid in full or you didn’t maintain the habitability of the property
  • Continue with eviction after they have paid back rent and any fees
  • Evict based on discrimination

The tenant will have a legal defense if any of these occur.

Legally Breaking a Lease

If a tenant wished to leave their lease early, there are few cases where that is permissible:

  • Victim of domestic violence
  • The tenant can no longer live independently and is over the age of 62
  • Enters active military service
  • Housing isn’t habitable under city and state housing codes
  • Tenant’s privacy has been violated or they have been harassed by the landlord

In these circumstances, the landlord must do the work of mitigating damages. This includes taking reasonable efforts to rent the property at the unit’s fair market value or the agreed-upon rate. This will release the previous tenant from any liability.

Apartment Sharing

You, as a landlord, are not permitted to restrict the occupancy of an apartment unless it doesn’t comply with overcrowding standards. 
The following people may occupy a unit when only one tenant’s name is on the lease and the tenant is occupying the unit:

  • Immediate family
  • One additional occupant
  • Occupant’s dependent children

If there is more than one tenant on the lease and one of those named people moves out, they may be replaced with another occupant and their dependent children.
If the only tenant on the lease moves out, the family or additional occupants are not permitted to stay residents of the property.