Understanding New York Rental Laws

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There are three levels on which rent laws are governed. There are federal laws, state laws, and local city and county ordinances. The federal laws are almost completely restricted to civil rights concerns. This includes defining the basis on which landlords can deny a prospective tenant housing. State laws govern much more than that. They lay out tenant and landlord duties, rights, and remedies for disputes.

Here, we will take a look at New York tenant-landlord laws and how they might apply to your situation.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
How to avoid the Appearance of Discriminatory Selection in Housing
> Official Laws Pertaining to New York State
> New York State Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> New York State Laws Regarding Rent Collection
> New York State Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions
> Implied Warranty of Habitability in New York State
Voluntary Terminating Tenancy
Landlord/Tenant Disputes
Notice of Entry
>
Domestic Violence Protections
> State Associations and Resources for Landlords and Tenants

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Fair Housing Act outlines the guidelines that landlords must follow when making decisions on prospective tenants. It is unlawful to deny a tenant application, say that a property is no longer available when it is, or make any other decisions based on what federal law defines as a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include:

  • Race,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

Actions that are expressly prohibited include:

  • Discriminatory language in applications or advertisements,
  • Charging extra rent or a larger security deposit depending on the number of children,
  • Refusing to allow an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation,
  • Refusing to waive a no-pets policy on the basis of a service animal,
  • Dismissing an application based on a protected characteristic,
  • Providing unequal terms or conditions,
  • Segregating tenants based on race.

The law on these matters can be found in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII is also known as the Fair Housing Act or Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines specific restrictions when dealing with those who have disabilities.

No-Pets Policies and Service Animals

Service animals are not considered pets by law. A landlord who has a tenant who requires a certified service animal must waive a no-pets policy for the tenant. On the other hand, “emotional support animals” which can be cats, dogs, guinea pigs, or anything else, are not considered service animals. They are considered companions or pets. A landlord is under no obligation to waive a no-pets policy for an emotional support animal.

Discrimination Based on Familial Status

Landlords may not deny housing to a mother who is renting alone with her children. In addition, a landlord may not charge an added security deposit based on the presence of children. The only exception to this rule involves 55-and-over housing communities, which can deny housing based on age.

New York State Housing Discrimination Laws

New York State extends the number of protected characteristics that are covered by housing discrimination laws. These include:

  • Sexual orientation,
  • Age,
  • Marital status,
  • And military status.

New York City Housing Discrimination Laws

New York City also extends state anti-discrimination protections. These include:

  • Gender or gender identity,
  • Citizenship status,
  • Partnership status,
  • Lawful occupation,
  • And source of income.

Source of income includes public or housing assistance (Section 8).

Buffalo Housing Discrimination Laws

The city of Buffalo extends housing discrimination protection on the basis of:

  • Gender/gender identity,
  • And source of income.

The language of Buffalo city code law, also specifies that no-pets policies must not include “therapy dogs and cats” (§ 154-17).

Other Housing Discrimination Laws

The State of New York has a number of mid-sized cities. Each of these may extend New York State fair housing protections to source of income and gender nonconformity. Check with your local city website for housing discrimination laws relevant to your city or area.

Exceptions to Housing Discrimination Laws

New York State lists three exceptions to Fair Housing laws. Those are:

  • One or two family owner-occupied buildings,
  • Rooming rentals for individuals of the same sex,
  • Room rentals in owner-occupied buildings.

How to Avoid the Appearance of Discriminatory Selection in Housing

The best way to comply with any and all housing discrimination rules regardless of where you are located is to simply choose the first qualified applicant. There are legitimate reasons for denying an applicant. These include poor credit, prior eviction, or criminal record.

By selecting the first qualified applicant, you ensure that you are in compliance with any possible housing laws.

Official Laws Pertaining to New York State

New York State Laws Regarding Security Deposits

While New York State does not specify how much a security deposit can be, landlords who are operating a rental property that has over five dwellings, must put the security deposit in an interest-bearing account (N.Y. GOL §§ 7-103(2-a)). Whatever interest the account accrues is payable to the tenant. In all circumstances, the landlord must provide the tenant with a receipt of deposit that specifies the name of the banking institution where the money is being kept (N.Y. GOL §§ 7-103(2)),

While there is no regulation as to specifically when a security deposit must be returned, the law states that it must “reasonable” according to the Tenant’s Rights Handbook. Landlords can only withhold money from the security deposit for unpaid rent or damage to the property (p8 & 9).

New York State Laws Regarding Rent Collection

In most cases, the landlord can dictate terms in the lease and the tenant is free to accept or reject those terms. According to the Tenant’s Rights Handbook, a landlord must give a tenant 15 to 30 days to accept or reject a renewal. This is so that tenants are not subject to auto-renewal clauses unfairly.

In addition, landlords must, by law, provide a tenant with a receipt for receiving rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-e). In addition, landlords may not require that the only source of payment is electronic (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-g).

There is no statute concerning late fees or grace periods. Landlords are advised to put any penalties for late rent in the lease. If the tenant bounces a rent check, the landlord may charge the tenant no more than $20 (N.Y. GOL §§ 5-328)

New York State Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions

According to the provisions laid out in General Obligations Law § 5-321 and Real Property Law § 259-c, certain clauses in leases are considered void and unenforceable. These include:

  •   Clauses exempting landlords from liability in the matter of injuries to a person or their property caused by landlord negligence;
  •   Clauses forcing tenants to waive their right to a jury trial;
  •   And clauses that force tenants to pledge their furniture as security for rent.

New York City landlords are required to provide their tenants with a copy of the lease.

Implied Warranty of Habitability in New York State

Rental units are rented under the assumption that they are habitable. In addition, each tenant has a “right to quiet enjoyment.” For landlords, this means providing a space that has running water, working plumbing, sufficient heat, electricity, protection from the weather, and security features like locks and windows. When the rental unit does not supply any of these basic needs, the tenant may be entitled to withhold rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-a), or repair the damage themselves and deduct rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-b).

If tenants choose to withhold rent, they are advised to keep the money in an escrow account until the situation is sorted out. Tenants who repair and deduct are advised to provide the landlord with any receipts. In addition, there may be a cap on the amount of money they are allowed to withhold.

Lastly, tenants should notify the landlord immediately of any problems with the rental unit. Landlords should be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the tenant’s request.

Voluntarily Terminating Tenancy

When the lease has a fixed end date, neither party is required to provide notice to quit. If the lease is month-to-month, the landlord is required to give the tenant one month notice (N.Y. RPL §§ 228).

Landlord/Tenant Disputes

In disputes with tenants, landlords may file suit. Whoever wins the decision has the right to recover attorney’s fees (N.Y. RPL §§ 234). If, however, the landlord wins the lawsuit, then he or she must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages to the tenant. This includes re-renting the property.

If a tenant is delinquent in payments to the landlord, the landlord may issue a 10-day notice to either remedy the situation or quit the lease (N.Y. RPL §§ 751(1)). In addition, if the tenant has violated some term of the lease, the landlord can issue a 10-day notice to remedy or quit (N.Y. RPL §§ 753(4)).

If the tenant does not comply, the landlord may begin eviction proceedings. Under no circumstances is a landlord allowed to either lock out a tenant or shut off the utilities in an attempt to force them out.

Landlords may not retaliate against tenants for asserting their rights. This includes terminating a lease, initiating an eviction, or refusing to extend a lease. Courts will assume that the landlord has retaliated against the tenant if they terminate a lease within six months of the tenant making a formal complaint. If the landlord attempts to charge a fee to the tenant for filing a legitimate complaint, the landlord with liable for triple the fee (N.Y. RPL §§ 223-b).

Notice of Entry

New York State does not have a specific statute regarding entry. Landlords are recommended to give their tenants 24 hours of notice. Tenants do have the right to their privacy.

Domestic Violence Protections

A tenant may, with the approval of the court, break a lease in the event that they are the victim of domestic violence or related concerns (N.Y. RPL §§ 227-c).

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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