Landlord/Tenant Law

New York Landlord-Tenant Law

New York ranks with California and Hawaii in the top three least affordable states to live in. Part of the state’s expensive mysticism is living in a New York City apartment while struggling to pay for rent and food in a low-wage job while dodging grumpy landlords.

However, this Hollywood vision of a landlord-tenant relationship in New York is sometimes true. Many tenants may be unable to afford the high costs of living in the Empire State and many landlords may be struggling to get by themselves. In these situations, the landlord-tenant relationship can become strained and when tempers flare, one or the other may test New York’s landlord-tenant law.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key New York landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.

Rent Control

In New York City and certain areas of Albany, Erie, Nassau, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Westchester counties, landlords of particular residential buildings must observe New York’s rent control program.

Tenants living in a residential building built before February, 1947 that haven’t declared an end to the rental housing emergency of 1946–1947 qualify for the rent control program. The program only applies to tenants and their lawful successors who’ve resided in the building since before July 1, 1971.

Under the New York rent control program, landlords are restricted to charging a certain limit of rent and can only evict rent controlled tenants under special conditions.

New York Fair Housing Laws

New York and federal discrimination laws are employed in housing practices and landlord-tenant relationships under New York’s Fair Housing laws. These laws state that landlords may not discriminate against tenants in any way based on a tenant’s protected characteristic, including:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status, including pregnancy or adoption
  • Marital status
  • Military status
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin

Lease Agreements

The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:

  • Roommate and guest policies.
  • Repair policy and procedures.
  • The security deposit amount and what it covers.
  • The rent rate and payment schedule.
  • Grounds for lease termination and eviction.

Security Deposits

While not required under New York law, most landlords charge a security deposit upon a new lease agreement equal to one month’s rent. The security deposit must be deposited into a New York bank account with an interest rate and cannot be commingled with the landlord’s own money.

The security deposit can be used by the landlord to cover unpaid rent or repair property damages beyond normal wear and tear. By the lease’s termination, the landlord is required to return any unused, refundable portion of the deposit. If the landlord requires some portion of the deposit to cover repairs, they must send the tenant a written notification detailing the needed expenses.

Getting Legal Help from a New York Attorney

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you may want to take a look at the Tenants’ Rights Guide published by the New York Attorney General for more detailed information on New York landlord-tenant law. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.

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