New York Landlord Tenant Law
The Comprehensive Guide to New York Renters: Protect Yourself & Know The Law
When you need a quick summary if your rights as a renter in New York or New York rental statistics just stop by our site. We also have pre-written letters for many situations you as a renter may be experiencing and need help with.
New York State Information and Statistics
Number of Apartment Residents: 3,500,000
Median Rent: $2,500
New York landlord and tenant law is somewhat complex, especially because of rent control laws in many high-value areas like New York City. In general, laws are designed to protect tenants from unlawful treatment from landlords while also giving landlords significant freedom in the details of their lease contracts and rent payments.
Note: While the information below is comprehensive, it is by no means a full list of all provisions and laws concerning New York landlord-tenant interactions. Laws may also change, as can be seen with a 2019 provision discussed below. Be sure to consult with a practicing attorney before finalizing any rental action to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.
Security Deposit Laws in New York
- There’s no designated limit on security deposits for nonregulated units. There may be local regulations concerning security deposit limits in any rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments throughout the state.
- Security deposits for rental properties containing six or more units must be kept in a New York interest-bearing bank account. Interest may be collected by the landlord for up to 1% of the security deposit, with the remainder of interest going to the tenant
- Landlords must return security deposits for their tenants within “a reasonable time” after the rental property has been surrendered back to the landlord, according to NY GOL Section 7-103 to 7-108. Reasonable may be interpreted differently throughout different courts.
- Landlords must disclose the amount of the security deposit and the name and address of a banking financial institution if the deposit is stored in a bank. The tenant must also be notified in writing after the deposit is placed in a financial institution.
- The security deposit must be transferred within five days of the property also being transferred, and landlords have to notify any tenants.
For the disclosure of the security deposit amount and location, a receipt of deposit is most often used and may be required depending on your local court. Furthermore, landlords can only ever withhold security deposit money for unpaid rent or for damage to the specific property or unit related to the tenant.
There is no statute for pet deposits or additional fees, so these are up to individual landlords. However, it may still be wise to contact local courts or look into local laws regarding these charges.
Lastly, landlords are not allowed, under any circumstances, to mix their personal funds and deposit funds. They must be kept in separate accounts according to NY GOL 7-103 (2-a).
Returning the Security Deposit
According to the Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, landlords must provide vacated tenants with an itemized statement showing the basis for how much of the security deposit is left, if any, and return that remaining security deposit amount within 14 days. Landlords do not get to keep any portion of the security deposit if they fail to return both the deposit remnant and the statement within that timeframe.
Maintenance & Repairs in New York
As with the vast majority of landlord and tenancy laws, New York law states that the right for tenants to live in a “livable, safe and sanitary apartment” is implied in every oral or written residential lease. This is the “Implied Warranty of Habitability” seen in NY RPL Section 235-b. Landlords cannot, therefore, write a lease that waives this right – such a lease is automatically void.
Furthermore, landlords have a “Duty of Repair”, seen in NY MDW 78 and 80 and NY MRL 174. Any landlord that has multiple dwellings has to keep both the buildings’ public areas and the individual apartments in good repair. Good repair is largely up to determination by the courts, but it’s usually considered:
- free of garbage and filth
- free of vermin (i.e. rats, mice, and other scavengers)
- free from offensive material. This is the murkiest section of the law, but any reasonably offensive material (especially that which has racial or sexual slurs) should be removed
Furthermore, all landlords are required to maintain good utility systems. These include heating, ventilation, plumbing, sanitary, and electrical systems. Any appliances that landlords install, like stoves or refrigerators, must also be in working condition. However, appliances that landlords do not install do not fall under this statute.
New York tenants have a “right to quiet enjoyment”. This means that, in addition to the above provisions, landlords must also feature locks and windows for capable security.
According to N.Y. RPL Section 7 235-b, in the event that landlords do not supply these basic needs, tenants are legally allowed to withhold rent or deduct rent to put toward costs to repair the damage themselves.
In New York, landlords must supply heating to any tenants in multiple dwellings from the dates of October 1 to May 31. Furthermore, apartments must be heated to a temperature of at least 68°F if temperatures outside fall below 55°F between 6 AM and 10 PM. Apartments must be heated to a temperature of at least 55° if the outside temperature falls below 40° between 10 PM and 6 AM.
In other words, during the winter and spring months, landlords are responsible for keeping their apartments at either 68°F during the day and 55°F during the night in most cases.
All New York landlords have to provide tenants of multiple dwellings with hot and cold water. Hot water must reach and maintain a consistent temperature of 120° at tap sources. However, any showers or bathtubs that are equipped with “anti-scald” vales may reach 110°F instead.
Notice of Entry/Access to the Premises
New York notice of entry laws in regard to tenancy termination are fairly cut and dry:
- No notice is ever needed to terminate a lease within a specific term if the fixed end date is already in the signed lease (NYL RPL Section 232-b)
- A one month notice is needed to terminate a tenancy if the lease is a month-to-month document. This is also specified as 30 days in New York City regardless of the current monthly calendar. (NY RPL Section 232-a for NYC)
- A 10-day notice is needed to terminate a lease for nonpayment according to NY RPL Article 751 Section 1. However, the notice must include the option to remedy (i.e. catch up on payments).
When it comes to entering a tenant’s apartment, the law becomes a little murkier. There are no statutes for:
- Generally entering an apartment. However, it’s recommended that landlords give tenants approximately 24 hours notice
- Emergency entry
- Entry during the extended absence of a tenant
- Entry for purpose of pesticide use
- Entry for the purpose of nonemergency repairs or maintenance
Landlords are also not required to give notices when utilities are shut off. However, given the reality that tenants will not take such shutdowns lightly, landlords may wish to give notice anyway.
When it comes to apartment sharing, landlords cannot restrict the occupancy of an apartment unit to the named tenant with their lease. This protection extends to the immediate family of the tenant. However, landlords are allowed to restrict the total number of people living in an apartment in order to comply with overcrowding standards (i.e. occupancy limits to avoid hazards). Check NY RPL Section 235 for more info.
Regarding Door Locks and Intercoms
Any dwellings that were built or converted to habitable use after January 1, 1968, must have both self-locking and self-closing doors at all entrances. Furthermore, doors must be closed at all times unless an attendant is currently performing maintenance work or otherwise on duty. A landlord must install these doors themselves if a property does not yet have them.
Tenants with leases are protected from addiction during the agreed-upon lease period. According to NY RPAPL 711, landlords may only begin eviction proceedings after giving formal notice to the tenant and if the tenant has violated a substantial provision of the lease or local housing codes and laws. Substantial, in this case, is up to interpretation by the court, so landlords may need multiple minor infractions to begin eviction proceedings if there is no major breach in the contract.
If the cause is sound, landlords may commence eviction proceedings if the tenant does not vacate the premises by a specified date, which is up to the discretion of the landlord.
Rent Increase in New York
Landlords are allowed to raise the month-to-month rent of a current tenant so long as the tenant provides consent, according to NY RPL Section 232-a and 232-b. If the tenant does not consent, landlords are allowed to terminate the tenancy with appropriate notice.
However, New York follows rent stabilization laws. The Rent Guidelines Board of New York sets percentage limits by which landlords can increase existing tenants' rents every year. If you are a landlord, you should check these percentages every year to ensure you stay within guidelines.
Rent Control Laws
Rent control laws prevent landlords from charging rent above a specific amount. It currently applies to any New York buildings built before February 1947. It is still in effect in many parts of New York City and in surrounding cities like Albany. It’s effective in many counties including Westchester, Schenectady, Nassau, and more.
Any apartment under rent control must:
- be lived in by a tenant or tenant’s lawful successor, and
- been lived in by that tenant or successor(s) continuously since before July 1, 1971
Any rent-controlled apartment that is vacated becomes rent-stabilized and becomes subject to normal rent increase laws.
Regarding Rent Collection
New York law is surprisingly relaxed in terms of how landlords outline the terms of their lease, as it assumes potential tenants are free to accept or reject terms responsibly. However, all landlords have to give potential tenants 15 or 30 days to either accept or reject a rent renewal agreement. This law is in place to prevent tenants from automatically renewing unwanted rental agreements.
According to RPL Section 235-E, all New York landlords must provide tenants with receipts for any received rent. Furthermore, 235-G states that New York landlords must accept a rent payment in both cash/check or electronic terms – they cannot limit payment to electronic means only.
The receipt above must include:
- The payment date
- the amount of the payment
- the period for which the rent was paid
- the apartment number or other identifying address information
- the receipt must also be signed by whoever receives the payment, including his or her title
Regarding Rent Late Fees
New York landlords are allowed to put whatever penalties they like for late rent in their leases. However, the new Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 states that:
- fees or other chargers can’t be made unless the late payment hasn’t been made within five days of the due date (i.e. you can’t charge a late fee if rent is late by only one day)
- furthermore, landlords cannot charge a late fee or charge that exceeds $50 or 5% of the monthly rent, whichever is less
Landlord Retaliation In New York
Landlords cannot refuse to renew a lease or terminate a lease early if the applicable tenant:
- has been involved in an organization against the landlord
- as exercise one of their legal rights
- has filed a complaint to a government authority
- has done anything that might be construed as negative toward the landlord
“Retaliation” is considered to be an act of revenge by a landlord in response to certain actions taken by a tenant. Courts assume retaliation automatically if any negative action (like terminating a lease) is taken within six months of applicable tenant actions. This is all according to NY RPL Section 223-b, and specifically 223-b(5a).
Retaliation does not only affect lease evictions or terminations. Enforcement of fees, charges or other penalties can also count as retaliation and is up to interpretation by courts.
Landlords are not allowed to refuse rent or refuse to offer a lease to a potential tenant on the basis of that potential tenant being involved in a pending or past legal landlord-tenant action. See the Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 for more information.
New York Military ServiceMembers Early Lease Termination
If a tenant joins the military or is already a part of the military, they may be required to terminate their lease early. However, this does not necessarily result in a breach of contract.
In U.S.C.A Sections 3901-4043, it’s clear that:
- landlords must allow for lease termination upon proper notice of military service beginning. Termination may be effective 30 days after the following rental payment
- eviction is not allowed during military service, except in circumstances when leave is given by a court (i.e. extenuating circumstances)
Furthermore, some service members can meet certain notice requirements and cancel rental contracts without penalties and with a full refund for any deposit monies. However, these instances will likely be mediated by a court on a case-by-case basis.
Lease Renewal In New York
For both leases for new tenants and for renewed leases, all official documents have to use common and everyday words and meanings. In short, everything needs to be clear for any prospective tenant according to NY GOL Section 5-702.
Furthermore, tenants can only renew their leases with their landlord’s(s) consent. They can still be subject to eviction at the end of the lease term, unless the previous lease also contained an automatic renewal clause.
Early Lease Termination
Landlords may not restrict the tenant from terminating their lease if the tenant is seeking escape from a domestic violence situation, according to NY RPL Section 227-C. Tenants may be released from further rental payments after giving 10 days’ notice to their landlord and after seeking a court order for termination of the lease.
Furthermore, tenants who are:
- 62 years of age or older
- who can no longer live independently
- who must move to senior citizen housing…
…may legally break their lease early without penalty. As mentioned above, military service members who enter active duty also qualify for early lease termination without a penalty.
Unenforceable Lease Provisions
According to RPL Section 295-C, a landlord cannot include certain clauses in their leases due to them being automatically void or unenforceable. Such causes include:
- any clauses that force tenants to pledge furniture or other collateral as “security” for their rent payments
- any clauses that force tenants to waive their right to jury trials
- any clauses that exempt landlords from liability in the event of injuries to property or another person, so long as the injuries or damage were sustained because of landlord negligence
Walk-Through Inspections Before Move-Outs
Landlords are not required to perform inspections of units before a tenant moves out.