Landlord-Tenant law in New York State in 2021

Jul 07

If anyone remembers life before covid, major changes were made to New York law in 2019 pertaining to leasing and evictions. Below is a summary of some of the biggest changes made by the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (HSPTA):

  • Leases:

Security deposits:

The amount of security cannot exceed the amount of one month of rent, and landlord cannot require payment up front for any more than first month’s rent and security.

Security can only be kept for unpaid rent, damages beyond ordinary wear and tear, unpaid utilities (payable to landlord pursuant to terms of the lease), and moving and storage of tenant’s abandoned property; security can no longer be used for late fees and additional rent charges – these can only be recovered in a plenary court proceeding (small claims court).

Landlord must provide tenant with an opportunity to inspect the apartment with landlord prior to vacating and then notify tenant of any damages that landlord would use security to fix so that tenant may make repairs and avoid having any amounts deducted from security.

Landlord must return security to tenant within 14 days of moveout.

Lease applications:

No application fees allowed.

Landlord can charge applicant for cost of credit check up to $20, but not if applicant can provide a credit report from the past 30 days.

Landlords cannot use a tenant eviction “blacklist,” which is a list of tenants that have been involved in housing court matters, in deciding whether to rent to an applicant.

Other lease terms:

Late fees can only be $50.00 or 5% of monthly rent – whichever is less.

If landlord wants to increase a tenant’s rent by more than 5%, or does not want to renew an expiring lease, landlord must provide notice to tenant based on the amount of time tenant has occupied the apartment – if tenant has occupied the apartment for less than one year, 30 days’ notice; if between one and two years, 60 days’ notice; and if more than 2 years, 90 days’ notice.

  • Evictions:

There are two types of evictions: nonpayment and holdover. Nonpayment is exactly as it sounds – failure to pay rent. Holdover occurs when the lease has expired, and landlord has not renewed the term (by proper notice) or if landlord has terminated tenant’s lease for default based on the terms of the lease agreement and tenant fails to leave by the termination date.

Tenants now must receive more notices for eviction for nonpayment and are given more time to respond before they can be evicted. Tenants can only be evicted for nonpayment of base rent; additional rent and fees cannot be included.

First, when rent is not received by the 6th day of the month, the landlord must send an initial notice to tenant by certified mail notifying the tenant of the amount of rent outstanding. Also at this point or later, tenant must be served with a 14-day notice to pay or quit. Service must be completed in accordance with NY RPAPL §735. After the expiration of the 14 days, a petition can be filed and the petition and notice of petition served on the tenant, again in accordance with NY RPAPL §735. The tenant must be served between 10-17 days prior to the date of the court hearing.  If a warrant is issued at the hearing, the sheriff or marshal executing the warrant must provide the tenant with 14 days’ prior notice (both of these 14 day requirements were 3 days prior to 2019).

For a holdover eviction, the tenant must be served with a termination notice, and if the tenant fails to leave, the landlord can file the petition right away and serve the tenant pursuant to the requirements for notice and petition described above along with proof of the service of the termination notice and compliance with the terms of the lease or with NYS law.

*As of July 2021, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 is still in effect. Until August 31, 2021, unless further extended, a tenant cannot be evicted for nonpayment if the tenant provides a signed copy of a tenant hardship declaration form to the landlord or the appropriate court, claiming a financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which has hindered the tenant’s ability to pay rent. Any notices given to tenant must include this hardship form along with attachments listing legal service providers for free assistance and the addresses for both landlord and the appropriate court for tenant to send the hardship form. A tenant shown to be “persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others” may be evicted as a nuisance so long as all notice and service requirements are met and the landlord files a petition including such nuisance allegations. Landlord must be able to prove these allegations with evidence satisfactory to the court