New York Landlord Tenant Laws
In general, New York state rental laws are seen to be fairly protective of tenants. However, it is legal in the state for third-party screening companies to operate “blacklists,” which landlords have a great deal of freedom to list tenants on when there is some sort of a legal dispute in housing court. These blacklists generally do not provide context, so tenants need to be aware that even if they are in the right and won their court case, they can still wind up blacklisted. It may require further legal action to be taken off a blacklist, and it may not be possible at all if all of the information on the blacklist is factual. As an alternative to taking a landlord to housing court, tenants can look into other remedies, such as housing part actions or suing in another court system such as small claims court.
Be aware that New York rental law had some changes made to it in mid-2015. Among them are increased protections for tenants in the form of larger fees for bad landlords and tighter regulations on rent-controlled dwellings. It is important to note that while all information here is included in state statutes, it should not be regarded as legal advice or as a subsitute for a qualified lawyer.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in New York?
Landlord and tenant arrangements are covered by New York Real Property Law Article 7 and 8. Further provisions about handling security deposits are included in New York General Obligation Law 7-103 to 7-109. There are a handful of other assorted laws that can have a bearing on rental agreements, some of which are mentioned in context below, and it is also important to review prior case law in areas where there are no statutes.
Security Deposit Rules
There are no statutes on security deposit maximum amounts, pet deposits or added fees. There are a number of regulations about how security deposits must be handled, however. Landlords are never allowed to mingle security deposits with their own personal funds, under NY GOL 7-103. If a landlord operates six or more family dwellings, there are further regulations they must adhere to. For example, the landlord is required to pay interest in these situations, and must keep the money in a bank account based in New York. They must also provide tenants with the name and address of the bank in which the funds are being held.
New York does not mandate a set time that landlords must return the security deposit to tenants in, but does stipulate that it must be returned in a “reasonable” amount of time. Landlords are only allowed to withhold money from the deposit for unpaid rent and repairs to damage caused by the tenant. If money is withheld for damages, however, the landlord is not required to provide the tenant with an itemized list of charges. If the landlord sells the property, they must transfer the deposit to the new owner within five days of the sale and must notify the tenant of the new owner’s name and address, under NY GOL 7-103.
Tenants are allowed to paint their walls white according to the law, but if they paint a wall any other color the landlord is allowed to withhold money from the security deposit to re-paint the walls if they desire. Landlords are required to paint or update wallpaper in each unit once every three years, but tenants can agree to postpone this indefinitely if they prefer. This law is outside of the usual rental statutes, included under Administrative Code Article 3 27-2013.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
There are no statutes in New York on when rent is due, notice of an increase in rent, late fees, a grace period for paying rent or prepaid rent. Landlords may charge “reasonable” application fees under NY GOL 5-328, but a specific amount is not specified. Returned check fees can not exceed $20 and the amount must be specified in the lease. Automatic renewal terms must be included in the lease, and if they are, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with notice of them at least 15 days before the lease is up.
Tenants are allowed to repair and deduct rent as well as withhold rent for failure to provide essential utilities under NY RPL 235. Landlords are in turn allowed to recover attorney and court fees if a case goes to trial. There is no statute that mandates that landlords mitigate damages, but previous civil court cases have tended to come down on the side of the tenant in these circumstances.
Landlords cannot mandate that tenants use an electronic billing system for payments. If payment is made by some other form than check, landlords are required to provide a receipt.
Certain language is also forbidden from inclusion on a lease. Landlords cannot require that tenants release them from liability for damages, make them waive their right to a jury trial or mandate that tenants put up their furniture in lieu of a security deposit.
Members of the military can terminate their lease early if they enter or are called to active duty or receive orders taking them out of the area for an extended period. Rent for the month following the lease termination is still due.
Notice and Entry Rules
Laws on tenant termination of a lease vary slightly depending on whether or not you are in New York City. In the city 30 days notice is required in all cases; in the rest of the state a full month is required if the month in question requires more or less days. These terms can be found in NY RPL 232. Landlords must give 10 days notice if they are terminating a lease for a violation or for nonpayment, but in both cases the tenant is allowed to remedy the situation during that period to keep the lease active.
There is no statute governing specific amounts of advance notice for a landlord to enter a dwelling, but previous case law has generally found 24 hours to be reasonable notice for most circumstances. There is no statute on emergency entry. Lockouts and utility shutoffs are not allowed according to the State Attorney General’s Office.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Landlords are required to provide tenants with a copy of the lease, and if any changes are made to the terms they must provide the tenant with an updated copy.
Tenants who have experienced domestic violence can seek approval from a court to terminate their lease early with no penalty, under NY RPL 237.
Retaliation is illegal under New York law. It is regarded as retaliation if a landlord adds extra fees or charges, terminates a lease or refuses to renew a lease within six months of a tenant making a complaint either to the landlord or to a government organization. If the landlord attempts to charge the tenant some sort of fee, the tenant can recover triple the amount.
Small Claims Court
The state sets a small claims limit of $5,000, but in town and village courts the limit is $3,000. Eviction cases are heard either in civil court or in housing court.