Landlords can make a substantial amount of money by renting or leasing to tenants, but that opportunity comes with a large amount of responsibility. Federal and state laws grant rights to tenants and imposes duties on landlords in order to structure an equitable relationship between the parties and provide clear procedures for handling financial matters and resolving disputes. Read on for a brief overview of the major obligations a landlord in New York has to their tenants.
1. Comply with Housing Laws
City, state, and federal governments have enacted laws that protect tenants from discrimination and exploitation by landlords. The federal Fair Housing Act has created protected categories most landlords cannot use to reject applicants – race, religion, sex, family status, disability, or national original. This does not prevent landlords from rejecting applicants for issues such as bad credit or a history of eviction. New York’s housing law goes beyond the federal standard and includes prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status. New York City has gone even further, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.
2. Prepare a Legally Compliant Written Lease or Rental Agreement
A rental agreement or lease between you and a tenant will set out the contractual nature of your relationship and dictates the key terms of your agreement such as rent amount, duration of rental, and rules the tenant must follow. It is also a place to include important mandatory disclosures about hazards such as lead paint and procedures for securing, holding, and returning security deposits. A legal, effective agreement will help you avoid disputes for the duration of your contractual relationship.
3. Maintain a Safe, Livable, Sanitary Environment
As a landlord you have a legal duty to maintain a livable, safe, sanitary living space for your tenants. This includes maintaining functioning heating systems, pipes, electrical wires, and water under New York’s implied warranty of habitability. Failure to do so allows tenants to take remedial actions such as repairing defective conditions themselves and deducting from the rent owed to you – even withholding rent altogether in certain situations if you are notified of problems and fail to make repairs.
4. Follow Established Procedures in Cases of Eviction or Tenancy Termination
As a landlord you cannot simply evict a tenant. A lease must be up, a tenant withholding rent, or a tenant severely violating the terms of their lease all constitute valid reasons for eviction. In these cases, you must take your tenant to court, establish valid claims for eviction or termination, and receive a warrant of eviction from the court to validly vacate the tenant.
5. Never Engage in Retaliatory Behaviors
New York law prohibits retaliating against a tenant for complaining about unsafe or inadequate living conditions. It is important to establish a documentary record of making repairs, logging complaints, and handling issues that arise with your tenants.
6. Maintain Tenant Security Deposits Properly
You do not have the right to spend a tenant’s security deposit and cannot commingle a tenant’s money with your own. At the end of the lease your tenant is entitled to receive a return of their security deposit with interest even if they do not specifically ask for it. Receipts are a wise idea to avoid unnecessary disputes, as are move in and move out checklists and itemized security deposit statements.
New York Real Estate Lawyer
Looking for legal help with your New York real estate issue? At MOWK Law we represent both landlords and tenants in their disputes in and out of court. Get in touch with us today and let’s chat about your landlord tenant issue and how we can help!