Landlord & Tenant Rights: Duties Under New York Law

By Emily Stokes

New York tenant and landlord rights are not much different from other states, although certain laws differ based on whether or not the apartment is located within New York City. It is important to understand your rights as either a tenant or landlord to avoid legal matters and personal disputes, and to guarantee that your experiences are fair.

Leases

Leases can be written or oral, but after one year, an oral lease cannot be defended legally. The lease must have beginning and ending dates, and tenants are entitled to receive a copy of their lease within 30 days of signing it. If the lease contains an automatic renewal clause, then the landlord must notify the tenant 15 to 30 days before renewal, in case the tenant would like to terminate the lease. While a tenant is under a lease, a landlord may not evict the tenant unless the tenant has blatantly violated a part of the lease agreement, at which point the landlord must give notice of intent to evict.

Month-to-Month Renters

With regard to month-to-month renters -- renters who have not signed a lease -- the termination process is very different from those with lease agreements. Either party can terminate an agreement made outside of New York City, but within the state of New York, with one month of notice; within New York City, required notice from either party is 30 days. Landlords do not need to give a reason for termination.

Rent

Unregulated rent can be any amount, as agreed on by the parties. Regulated rent is set by law and requires that rental increases do not exceed that which is mandated by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. Tenants over 62 years of age can file a Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption to avoid having to pay increased rent. When rent is paid in any other form than check, the landlord must give the tenant a receipt, which must state payment date, amount, period paid and the apartment number.

Security Deposits

Landlords must keep security deposits in separate accounts from their own personal money. In buildings with six or more apartments, landlords must separate these accounts by tenant and accumulate interest. If the tenant has not skipped rent or caused any outstanding damages, then the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant after the lease is terminated.

Subletting

Tenants must have written notices and agreement from landlords in order to sublet the apartment to a third-party renter. The landlord must know the reason for subletting, the name of the subtenant and the subtenant's contact information. The landlord must receive a copy of the proposed sublease.

Landlord Cleanliness

Tenants have a legal right to a safe and livable environment, and may sue for rent reduction if their dwelling is unsanitary or unsafe as a result of factors beyond their own control. If a fire or other causes severely damage an apartment, then the tenant may revoke the lease agreement within three days. Landlords must keep apartments free of vermin, garbage and damage in public areas, and must maintain heating, ventilation, electricity and plumbing at all times. Landlords must install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in all apartments and houses.

Privacy

Tenants have a right to privacy; however, landlords will most likely require a copy of room key and are allowed to enter without permission in the following circumstances: handling a fire or another emergency, showing the room to a perspective renter or providing repair services. Landlords must install peepholes and allow tenants to install their own locks. In city apartments, landlords must also install chain door guards on apartment entryways.

About the Author

Emily Stokes graduated from Dickinson College with a B.A. in English and is pursuing graduate studies in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Stokes has worked as a writing tutor at the Eberly Writing Center in Carlisle, Pa., and as a subcontracting writer for SKY University, LLC.