New York State Revamps Landlord-Tenant Law

On June 14, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. While this law was primarily focused on rent stabilization and other affordable housing issues in New York City, it also made substantial changes to how landlords and tenants interact statewide, including major changes to the eviction process. The full text of the law can be found here, while a summary of the law's provisions applicable on Long Island are set forth below:

Summary of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019

  • Unless otherwise noted, the effective date of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (the “Law”) was June 14, 2019. The Law applies to all legal proceedings commenced on or after that date.

  • The summary is limited to Part M of the Law, which amends the provisions of the Real Property Law and Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law relating to landlord-tenant matters. In addition, it only covers provisions applicable outside of New York City.

Retaliation Against Tenant

  • The Law prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants for making good-faith complaints to the landlord or landlord’s agent about violations of health and safety law. Previously applied only to tenant complaints to a government authority.

  • Retaliatory actions now include, upon expiration of tenant’s lease, offering new lease with an unreasonable rent increase.

  • In a civil action against the landlord for damages for unlawful retaliation, the tenant can now recover attorney’s fees and costs from landlord.

  • Where a landlord moves to recover possession, and tenant asserts retaliation as an affirmative defense, the Court must rule for defendant if it finds that the landlord’s action retaliatory, removing the requirement that the Court also find that “landlord would not otherwise have commenced such action or proceeding.”

  • The period during which the rebuttable presumption that an eviction is retaliatory exists, because landlord served notice to quit, moved to evict tenant, or substantially alter terms of tenancy, is increased from six months to one year.

  • The rebuttable presumption in favor of retaliation now applies even in actions based upon violation by tenant of terms and conditions of lease, including non-payment of rent.

Notice of Rent Increases / Non-Renewal *Effective October 12, 2019*

  • A landlord must provide written notice to tenants of its intention to increase rent by more than 5% or to not renew a tenant’s lease. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenancy continues until notice period expires, regardless of any other lease provision.

  • Notice period for above scales based on duration of tenancy: 30 days for tenants who have occupied for less than one year; 60 days for tenants of more than one year but less than two years; and 90 days for tenants that have occupied a unit for two years or more.

Landlord Duty To Mitigate Damages

  • If a tenant vacates in violation of lease agreement, the landlord has duty to take, within its means, “reasonable and customary actions to rent the premises at fair market value” or at the prior tenant’s rental rate, whichever is lower.

  • The new tenant’s lease will terminate the lease of prior tenant and mitigate any damages recoverable against that tenant. The burden of proof on this matter is on the landlord.

  • Lease provisions exempting a landlord from the duty to mitigate damages are now void.

Refusing To Rent Based On Prior Disputes *Effective July 14, 2019*

  • A landlord may not refuse to rent to a potential tenant based on that tenant’s involvement in past or pending landlord-tenant action.

  • Requesting information from a tenant screening bureau, or otherwise inspecting court records, will create rebuttable presumption of a landlord’s violation of this provision.

  • The New York State Attorney General may enforce this provision, with fines ranging from $500 to $1000 per violation.

Termination of Month-To-Month Tenancy Outside NYC *Effective October 12, 2019*

  • A tenant may terminate a month-to-month tenancy by providing the landlord with at least one month’s notice of the tenant’s election to terminate.

  • The Law seemingly does not permit landlord to terminate a month-to-month tenancy by explicitly removing that language, though this may be a drafting error in the Law.

Attorney’s Fees in Eviction Proceedings

  • A landlord may not recover attorney’s fees on a default judgment.

Receipt for Rent Payments

  • A landlord or its agent must provide tenants with receipts for rent payments made in cash or by any instrument other than personal check. A tenant may also request a receipt for payments made by personal check, which the landlord or its agent must provide.

  • If a tenant fails to pay rent within five days of the date specified in a lease, the landlord or its agent is required to send the tenant, by certified mail, a written notice indicating the failure to receive such rent. Failure to send such written notice is an affirmative defense to an eviction proceeding for nonpayment of rent.

Limitations on Fees

  • A landlord may not demand any fee or charge for processing, review or acceptance of an application, or demand any other fee before or at the beginning of a tenancy, except for performing a background checks and credit checks.

  • Fees for background checks or credit checks must be assessed at cost, may not exceed $20, and must be waived if applicant presents such check results from past 30 days.

  • This provision does not apply to certain categories of retirement communities, adult care facilities, and facilities run by not-for-profit organizations.

Limitations on Late Fees

  • A landlord may not demand any fee for late payment of rent unless payment has not been made within five days of the date it was due.

  • Late fees for the non-payment of rent may not exceed fifty dollars ($50) or five percent (5%) of the monthly rent, whichever is less.

Recovery of Fees or Penalties

  • “Rent” is defined as the monthly or weekly amount charged for use and occupancy under a written or oral agreement (meaning late fees cannot be deemed “additional rent”).

  • No fees, charges, or penalties other than rent can be sought in a summary proceeding, notwithstanding any language to the contrary in any lease or rental agreement.

Proceedings To Recover Possession - Landlord-Tenant Relationship

  • No tenant or lawful occupant may be removed from possession of a dwelling except in a special proceeding on certain specified grounds (grounds in Law limited to nonpayment)

  • A tenant who has defaulted on rent must have been given a written demand on fourteen days notice (increased from three days notice) requiring the payment of rent or surrender of possession of the premises. This requirement can no longer be waived in writing.

  • If a tenant dies and the apartment is occupied by a person with a claim to possession, an action may only be commenced as against the estate. Entry of a judgment and any warrant issued shall not be effective as against the occupants.

Rent Payment Prior To Hearing Date

  • In a non-payment proceeding, payment to the landlord of the full amount of rent due must be accepted by the landlord at any time prior to the hearing date. Once accepted, the grounds for the proceeding to recover possession are rendered moot.

Notice of Petition – Return Date

  • The notice of petition for a proceeding to recover possession for real property in a non-payment proceeding shall now be made returnable after 10 days (increased from 5 days).

  • In all other proceedings, the notice of petition shall be served between ten and seventeen days before the date the petition is noticed (increased from five to twelve days).

Adjournment Requests

  • After issue is joined, the request of either party for an adjournment must be granted by the Court, and such adjournment must be no less than two weeks.

  • Subsequent requests for an adjournment are granted in the discretion of the Court.

Warrant of Eviction

  • A warrant of eviction must now state the earliest date upon which execution may occur, in addition to describing the property and naming the persons to be removed.

  • Upon a showing of good cause, a court may issue a stay of a re-letting or renovation of the premises for a reasonable amount of time.

  • The requirement of 72-hour notice from the officer executing a warrant of eviction is increased to 14 days., and a warrant of eviction can only be executed on a business day.

  • In a judgment for non-payment of rent, the court must now vacate a warrant of eviction upon the tender or deposit with the court of the full amount of rent due at any time prior to the warrant’s execution, unless it is shown that the tenant withheld the rent in bad faith.

Stay of Eviction Due To Hardship

  • Court may stay execution of warrant and collection of costs of proceeding for up to one year upon a good faith showing that the applicant could not secure similar premises within the neighborhood despite making reasonable efforts to do so, or if the tenant would otherwise suffer extreme hardship.

  • Grounds for extreme hardship include serious ill health, a child’s enrollment in a local school, or other extenuating life circumstances. The Court shall also consider any substantial hardship the stay may impose on the landlord.

  • This provision previously only applied in New York City, and the maximum duration of such a stay was six months. It now applies statewide and the stay can last up to one year.

  • This provision does not apply to holdovers that the landlord can show “by competent evidence” are objectionable.

  • If a proceeding based upon a tenant’s breach of a provision of the lease, the Court will stay execution by 30 days (up from 10 days) to allow the tenant to correct such breach.

Unlawful Eviction

  • It is unlawful to evict or attempt to evict a tenant who has occupied a dwelling for a least thirty consecutive days or entered into a lease agreement except through a warrant of eviction or other court/governmental order.

  • Unlawful eviction includes (1) the threat or use of force; (2) interfering with the use and occupancy of the property to induce the tenant to vacate, including cutting essential services (i.e. turning off utilities); or (3) engaging in or threatening other conduct to prevent lawful occupancy (removing possessions, changing locks, removing doors, etc.).

  • Intentionally violating this provision or assisting someone in dong so is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by fines of between $1,000 and $10,000, plus a daily fine a $100 for each day the tenant is not restored to possession.

Security Deposits / Inspections *Effective July 14, 2019 (applies to any lease or renewal entered into or after such date)*

  • In non-rent stabilized housing, deposits or advances cannot exceed one month’s rent.

  • The full amount of the deposit or advance must be returned upon the tenant vacating the premises, less any amount lawfully retained for non-payment of rent, damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear, and/or moving/storing tenant belongings.

  • Prior to occupancy, the landlord must offer the tenant the opportunity to inspect the premises to determine the condition of the property. If the tenant request such an inspection, the parties shall enter into a written agreement attesting to the condition of the property and noting any deficiency or damage before occupancy begins.

  • Within a reasonable time of notice of the intent to terminate the tenancy, the landlord must inform the tenant of the tenant’s right to request an inspection and be present for it.

  • The inspection must occur 7 to 14 days before tenant vacates, and the landlord must give at least 48 hours notice of the date and time of the inspection.

  • After the inspection, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized statement specifying the repairs or cleaning that are the basis for any deduction from the deposit, and the tenant shall have the opportunity to cure any conditions before vacating.

  • Within 14 days of the tenant vacating, the landlord must provide an itemized statement (or second statement, if earlier inspection was done) specifying basis for any deductions from tenant’s deposit and return the remainder of the deposit.

  • Failure to comply with the above forfeits any right to retain any portion of the deposit, and makes the landlord liable for damages, including punitive damages up to twice the value of the deposit. The landlord bears the burden of proving deductions are reasonable.

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