If a lease exists (written or oral) or if a landlord has previously accepted payment as rent, a New York renter has certain rights under New York landlord tenant law (NY Real Property Law §§ 220 – 238A). These include protections from illegal landlord retaliation, the right to habitable housing and more.
New York landlords also have certain rights, such as the right to timely rent payments and for compensation for damages to the property beyond “normal wear and tear”.
Note: these rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
In addition to the below, please check local county and municipality laws for additional rights for both landlords and tenants in New York.
Warranty of Habitability in New York
Landlord Responsibilities. Most US states maintain what is known as a “warranty of habitability” within their landlord laws. Either by enumerated requirements or legal interpretation, these warranties typically outline which services or amenities must be provided by a landlord in order for their rental units to be considered “livable.”
New York state maintains a warranty of habitability of its own, but it is fairly broad compared to those in other states with sizable populations. Generally speaking, this warranty only outlines three major requirements that all rental units operating in the state must abide by. Those requirements are as follows:
- Be fit for human habitation
- Be compliant with the “reasonable expectations” of the renter
- Be free of hazardous or dangerous conditions that may put a renter’s health or safety at risk
These key standards are open to a fair amount of interpretation that some local jurisdictions have solidified through more concrete warranty of habitability statutes. However, legal precedent within the state indicates that a landlord may be found to be non-compliant with New York’s standards if any of the following amenities is not provided or maintained in proper repair:
- Adequate supply of running hot and cold water
- Waterproofing on all walls, floors, and ceilings
- Adequate internal heating (particularly from Oct. 1 to May 1)
- Operational plumbing
- Safe electric outlets, lighting, and wiring
- Bug and vermin abatement (as necessary)
- Mold abatement
- Operable appliances (when provided)
- Sealed and operable gas lines
- Proper sanitary facilities
- Lockable windows and doors
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
New York landlords are required to provide repairs to any or all of these amenities upon their tenant’s request. However, New York’s current statutory code does not standardize a specific time frame in which the landlord must perform this kind of repair. As such, they are only required to act in a “reasonable” amount of time by default. Tenants looking to better standardize a responsive repair protocol must request it in their lease agreement.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in New York state are also required to upkeep certain responsibilities relating to the habitability of their unit. This includes keeping the interior of their unit “clean and free from vermin, rodents, dirt, filth, garbage or other things or matter dangerous to life or health.” Landlords are tasked with holding their tenants to account regarding this cleanliness standard.
If an infraction in this cleanliness standard is observed, a New York landlord has the right to request that their tenant remedy the issue promptly. New York tenants are generally required to make such requested repairs promptly or face the threat of eviction from their landlord. However, any concrete repair period standard must be specified by the applicable lease agreement, rather than through an oral request alone.
Under certain circumstances (such as a failure to provide or repair an essential amenity), New York tenants are empowered through the state’s statutory code to take “alternative action” against their landlord. This includes repairing the issue on their own and deducting the associated costs from the next rent payment. New York tenants can also withhold rent payments altogether when they believe that their landlord has inadequately met their legal or contractual responsibilities.
Evictions in New York
When it comes to evicting a tenant anywhere in New York state, landlords may use these following legal justifications:
- Nonpayment of rent – Tenants in New York state are required to pay rent on time, in accordance with the provisions set out in their lease (including any applicable grace period). If this fails to occur, New York landlords are allowed to issue a 14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit to legally compel prompt payment. If all due rent payments are not provided by the end of the notice period, then the issuing landlord may begin formal eviction proceedings by filing a Petition to Recover Possessions.
- Violation of lease terms – When a lease violation of any kind (including the possession of a pet against written policies or a failure to maintain a safe/clean environment) is documented, a New York landlord may issue a 10-Day Notice to Cure that includes details regarding how the tenant may resolve the issue. If those provisions are not met by the end of the notice period, the landlord may issue a 30-Day Notice to Quit to compel the negligent tenant to vacate the premises promptly.
- Illegal Acts – New York state gives landlords full jurisdiction to decide what illegal actions do or not justify eviction from their rental units. While it is expected that an applicable lease agreement will enumerate these prohibited behaviors, New York landlords are not explicitly required to disclose every illegal action that may be used to justify eviction. Even in the absence of such a provision, New York tenants should expect to face eviction if they use their rented unit to facilitate any illegal action.
Evictions without a lease. Tenants in New York who rent from a landlord without utilizing a lease agreement are considered “at-will” with regards to their tenancy’s permeance. Even so, these tenants are still entitled to certain amounts of notice when their landlord intends to evict them (without cause, usually). These notice periods are based upon the length of their non-leased tenancy and are as follows:
- Month-to-month tenancy of 1 year – 30 days of advance notice
- Month-to-month tenancy of 1 to 2 years – 60 days of advance notice
- Month-to-month tenancy of 2 or more years – 90 days of advance notice
Illegal Evictions. New York landlords are expressly prohibited from retaliating against their tenants, including by way of forced eviction. To that end, New York landlords may have their eviction efforts challenged if the affected tenant believes that an action that they took in the past 6 months (including the choice to act upon one of their protected tenant rights) is the true reason for their eviction.
Similarly, tenants in New York may not be evicted on discriminatory grounds. As such, any eviction effort that is explicitly or implicitly based around a tenant’s race, religion, sex, nation of origin, familial status, disability status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or military status may be voided by regulatory authorities.
Security Deposits in New York
Collecting, maintaining, and redistributing security deposits in New York comes with the following statutory requirements and guidelines:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – New York formerly imposed no limits upon how much a landlord operating in the state could charge as a security deposit. However, as a result of new legislation in 2019, New York now limits new security deposits to only 1 month’s rent in value. This does not explicitly include ancillary deposits, such as those made for the purposes of allowing a pet into the rented unit.
- Interest and Maintenance – Landlords in New York state who operate 6 or more buildings are required to deposit their collected security deposits into an interest-bearing account. 1% of any interest accrued from this account can be collected by the landlord on an annual basis. All remaining interest must be paid out to tenants on an annual basis. This payout may be applied to rent payments at the tenant’s request or held in full until the lease’s conclusion.
- Time Limit for Return – By the letter of the law, landlords in New York state only have to return their tenant’s security deposits in a “reasonable” amount of time. However, legal precedent over time has caused the state to define “reasonable” as being 14 days when returning a security deposit is in question. When these funds are returned, they must be accompanied by an itemized list explaining any and all deductions made.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Any New York landlord that fails to abide by the state’s mandate to promptly return a tenant’s security deposit may be forced to vacate all claims to the deposit as well as pay damages based upon the intent of the withholding.
- Allowable Deductions – New York landlords may apply their tenant’s security deposits to offset the cost of several common charges. This includes delayed or late rent payments from that tenant, as well as damages caused by that tenant’s actions or negligence.
Lease Termination in New York
Notice Requirements. Tenants in New York state who are currently signed into a fixed end-date lease need not inform their landlord in advance of their lease’s termination (unless it is occurring earlier than stated). However, tenants who rent on a month-to-month basis are required to provide written notice of their intent to terminate their lease 1 month in advance (30 days, for those living in New York City).
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. New York state tenants are regularly able to end their lease early by following the early termination provisions set forth in their lease agreement. However, when such a leasing provision is unavailable, these same tenants may be still be able to terminate their lease prematurely by evoking one of the following justifications:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – All New York landlords are required to maintain their rental properties in “good repair” such that a tenant’s health or safety is not put at risk. If this warranty of habitability standard is not upheld, a tenant may consider themselves “constructively evicted.” If this argument is upheld upon challenge, a tenant in New York may use this status to immediately terminate their lease without further conditions.
- Landlord Harassment – Though New York state does not statutorily standardize how much notice a landlord must give in advance of their entry, they are still required to uphold any right of entry standards written into an applicable lease agreement. If they fail to do so, their tenant may claim that their landlord is unjustly invading their privacy. This, in turn, may constitute landlord harassment that justifies immediate lease termination.
- Domestic Violence and Stalking – New York state law allows victims of domestic violence (including stalking) to prematurely terminate their lease. To do this, though, a victimized tenant must seek a court order that requires their landlord to comply with their request (even without meeting other advance notice requirements).
- Senior Citizens and Serious Health Issues – New York state law allows individuals or their spouses who are 62 years of age or older to petition for early lease termination if they can demonstrate that living alone or in their current residence is inhibitive to their health. If the tenant in question is moving to public housing, a nursing home, or similar type of residential health care facility, their landlord must release them from all rent payment obligations upon the applicable lease’s termination.
Current New York state statutes do not require landlords to make a “reasonable” effort to re-rent a unit after a tenant vacates it early. As such, a tenant in this situation may remain liable for rent payments on the unit even if the rest of their lease has been duly terminated.
However, legal precedent in the state has highlighted a landlord’s obligation to mitigate damages in such a situation. So, depending on how and under what circumstances the tenant terminates their lease early, they may be compelled to seek out a new tenant or a sublessor to replace their former tenant.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in New York
Rent control & increases. New York is one of only a handful of US states that has implemented a statewide program for controlling rent prices. In fact, certain areas of New York state (namely New York City) have a fairly long history of legally controlling rent prices dating back to the 1940s. While rent control policies have been enacted over time and vary in their application from city to city, the entire state of New York has the opportunity to opt into what the state calls “rent stabilization.”
To be specific, municipalities across New York state are able to willingly take part in the state’s rent stabilization program after declaring an “emergency” relating to their local rent prices and availability. Currently, New York City, as well as Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester counties, all participate in this program.
When taking part in this law, each of these jurisdiction areas are empowered to set local rent prices (on units built after 1971) as well as address overcharges precipitated by landlords in the area. This consumer-oriented digest printed by the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal goes into further detail on rent stabilization, as well as its differences from rent control.
Also, with regards to rent increases, New York state does not maintain a standalone statute governing how much advance a tenant is entitled to prior to a scheduled rent increase. However, individual lease agreements may standardize this kind of advance notice at the landlord and tenant’s mutual discretion.
Rent related fees. New York state landlords are allowed to charge certain types of rent-related fees. Though not exhaustive, this includes late rent payment fees (which are not capped for per instance or totaled value) and returned check fees (capped at $20 per instance, but only if such a charge is provided for in the applicable lease agreement). Landlords in New York may also charge application fees, but they must be reasonable and not discriminatorily differentiated.
Housing Discrimination in New York
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. New York state protects several additional classes of tenants under its fair housing legislation. In addition to those classes protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, these protected class traits and characteristics include:
- Marital status
- Military status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The New York State Division of Human Rights administers the state’s several major civil rights laws, including those relating to fair housing practices. Though not an exhaustive list of actions that could potentially result in sanctioning, these following business practices are specifically prohibited by New York state when they are directed towards one of the state’s several protected classes:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or lease housing
- Applying or instituting different leasing conditions, terms, or privileges
- Advertising direct or indirect limitations or preferences for prospective tenants
- Using an application that directly or indirectly implies a limitation or preference for certain prospective tenants
- Providing different treatment to tenants that utilize a service animal or emotional support animal
- Retaliating against individuals who file complaints or testify against their landlord
- Misrepresenting the availability of housing
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations
Tenants in New York who believe that they have experienced one or more of these discriminatory practices are encouraged to report their treatment to the state Division of Human Rights. This can be facilitated online or through the Division’s several regional offices, each of which maintain a devoted phone number listed in this guide.
Because New York does not publish material relating to discrimination penalties, it is assumed that the Division handles sanctioning for such issues on a case-by-case basis. Often, though, penalties of this kind involve the discriminating landlord paying a fine as well as paying out damages to one or more tenants.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in New York
Here are just a few more common regulations that all landlords and tenants in New York state must abide by:
Landlord Entry. New York’s current landlord tenant laws do not statutorily define limits on a landlord’s right to entry. As such, they are allowed by default to enter any renter unit without permission or advanced notice of their intent.
However, the majority of proper lease agreements define some amount of notice required before a landlord can enter while also outlining what reason may justify a landlord entering (such as to perform a repair or to show the unit to a prospective renter). New York state does provide some guidance on this front, though, and recommends all landlords include a provision requiring at least 24 hours of advance notice.
New York also does not maintain a statute relating to emergency entry on the part of a landlord. However, it is generally assumed that a landlord may enter without permission or notice, regardless of applicable leasing terms, when an emergency threatens the health or safety of the unit’s inhabitants.
Small Claims Court. New York state maintains a system of small claims courts which may be utilized by landlords and tenants alike who wish to formalize their disputes. Generally speaking, these cases can only be valued at less than $5,000, unless they are filed in a town or village court, in which case the state mandated limit is $3,000. Eviction cases are not handled in New York’s small claims court system, however, and are instead served by any civic or housing court within the jurisdiction of the applicable property.
More information about New York’s small claims court system can be found in this state-published guide.
Mandatory Disclosures. Landlords in New York state must make a variety of informational disclosures to their tenants at the commencement of their tenancy. These mandatory disclosures include the following, but do not include disclosures that are only mandated within the jurisdiction of New York City:
- Lead-based paint. For houses built prior to 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead based paint hazards. Read more.
- Managers and Agents. All New York landlords are required to disclose their own name and address, as well as the same information for any property owners or their agents, that may manage their tenant’s property over the course of their lease agreement.
- Security Deposit Maintenance. New York landlords must disclose the location of any security deposits that they maintain over the course of a tenant’s lease. This disclosure should include what bank those deposits are held in as well as the applicable account number.
- Licensee Relationships. New York state licensees who are acting as agents of landlords are required to provide this state-published disclosure that clarifies their relationship to the larger leasing process.
- Rent Control Ordinance. New York’s rent control and rent stabilization laws usually require landlords that are covered by those policies to disclose the presence of such an ordinance on a new tenant’s residence.
Changing the Locks. New York state law specifically prohibits lockouts, especially when they are used as retaliation against a tenant. With this in mind, legal precedent in the state dictates that landlords may not unilaterally change their tenant’s locks without express permission. However, it is unclear if tenants in the state are held to the same standard simply because their ability to change their own locks is not addressed in New York’s current landlord-tenant laws.
Local Laws in New York
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
New York City Landlord Tenant Rights
Among many cities in the US, New York City has perhaps the most local laws, regulations, and ordinances that differ from their home state. In fact, due to the unique nature of NYC, many New York state laws (including those covering landlords-tenant relationships) have special caveats designed to give the city’s government the ability to meet the needs of its unique housing market.
The vast majority of NYC’s additional local landlord-tenant laws are designed to empower tenants or prevent landlords from using unfair business practices while serving their tenants. For example, many NYC apartments are covered under the city’s rent control and rent stabilization laws. These laws alone impose considerable restrictions on how rent rates are set in affected units as well as how tenants living in those affected units are treated.
NYC landlords are also required to better inform and communicate with their tenants, generally speaking. This can be seen in the city’s additional disclosure requirements, such as the requirement to disclose a properties recent history with bedbugs to new and prospective tenants.
In all, landlords and tenants who are moving into the NYC housing market should take some time to speak with their local housing authority so that they can fully understand their rights and obligations under this major city’s laws. This guide from the New York state Attorney General’s Office is a great place to start.
Buffalo Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Buffalo lies within Erie County, which instituted its own localized fair housing law in 2018. As such, all tenants within the city and county at large are protected from discrimination based upon their gender identity, immigration/ citizenship status, and lawful source of income (which exceeds the state’s protections on this front).
This fair housing legislation also prevents landlords from denying housing to otherwise qualified tenants based upon their reception of rental assistance, disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, veteran’s benefits, or “other government subsidies and lawful non-wage income.” More information about the law, including links to an official copy of its text, can be found here.
Syracuse Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Syracuse maintains an official definition for “reasonable” as it relates to the legal return a tenant’s security deposit. While the state of New York usually interprets this state-level legislative language to require a deposit’s return within 2 weeks, Syracuse’s policy sets this standard in stone and does not lease room for interpretation based upon circumstance. Information about this local ordinance, as well as others that apply to jurisdictions within Onondaga County, can be found here.
Yonkers Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Yonkers requires that all landlords provide certain amounts of in-unit heating to their tenants at certain times of the day and during a certain period of the year. Specifically, the city’s code enforcement authorities require that heating capable of achieving 68° F in all habitable rooms (including bathrooms) be provided from September 15 to May 31 each year. The city also defines the temperature of water provided to all rental units within the city. The official statement on these policies can be found here.