Navigating New York landlord-tenant law can seem daunting, but in reality, a basic understanding of the state's laws is enough to help both landlords and tenants solve most issues they face—without assistance from a lawyer.
Here's a breakdown of the rules every New York landlord and tenant should know. Note that while this article addresses New York state law generally, you'll still need to check your local laws, because New York allows cities, towns, and villages to make their own landlord-tenant laws. Also, New York City's laws often differ greatly from the state's laws.
Rent control in the state of New York can be tricky to understand. Certain rules apply to New York City, while other rules apply to the rest of the state. Throughout New York, the rules protecting tenants fall into one (or both) of the following categories:
A detailed explanation of New York's rent control and rent stabilization laws is beyond the scope of this article, and can vary by county. Some good resources for more information include the New York's Office of Rent Administration's thorough fact sheet explaining rent stabilization and rent control and its website devoted to rent control (be sure to check out all the fact sheets for details).
Can New York landlords charge an application fee?
New York landlords can charge a fee only to reimburse costs associated with conducting a background check and credit check. The total fees can't be more than the actual cost of the checks or $20, whichever is less. The landlord can collect the fee only if they provide a copy of the background or credit check to the applicant.
If an applicant provides a copy of a background or credit check that was conducted within the past 30 days, the landlord must waive the fee. (N.Y. Real. Prop. § 238-a (2023).)
Can New York landlords ask about an applicant's criminal history?
It depends. A city or county law might prohibit landlords from asking about an applicant's criminal history and running a criminal background check, but there is no statewide law on the topic.
Even if the city or county where the rental is located doesn't prohibit landlords from considering applicants' criminal histories, landlords must be careful. When landlords consider applicants' criminal history, they must do so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. If a landlord's practice of considering criminal history has a discriminatory effect—for example, if the landlord asks only applicants of a certain color for criminal history information—the landlord is engaging in illegal discrimination and can be subject to penalties. Also, landlords can reject applicants only for past convictions that are directly related to the application—in other words, convictions that have a negative bearing on a legitimate business concern of the landlord.
What is the maximum security deposit a New York landlord can charge?
For rentals not covered by rent stabilization laws, the maximum security deposit a New York landlord can charge is one months' rent. (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 7-108 (2023).)
Do New York landlords have to pay interest on security deposits?
If a New York landlord puts a security deposit in an interest-bearing account, the tenant is entitled to the interest, minus a 1% administration fee that the landlord can keep.
Landlords who are renting property containing six or more units must place the security deposit in a New York bank account that earns interest at the prevailing rate. The tenant keeps the interest (minus a 1% administrative fee that the landlord can keep). (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 7-103 (2023).)
Can New York landlords charge nonrefundable cleaning fees? Pet fees?
New York landlords can't collect more than one months' rent in total security deposit and other fees, including pet and cleaning fees. (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 7-108 (2023).)
How long do New York landlords have to return a security deposit?
New York landlords have 14 days after the tenant has moved out to provide an itemized statement detailing why the landlord is keeping any of the security deposit and to return the remainder of the deposit. If the landlord doesn't provide an itemization and return the remainder within 14 days, the landlord can't keep any portion of the deposit. (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 7-108 (2023).)
The tenant also has the right to request an inspection before move-out, and the right to be present at the inspection. After the inspection, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized statement specifying repairs or cleaning that the landlord proposes to cover by using the security deposit. The tenant has the opportunity to fix these conditions before the end of the tenancy. (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 7-108 (2023).)
Under state law, New York landlords must disclose information about the following to tenants:
Can New York landlords charge tenants late fees?
New York landlords can charge late fees when the rent hasn't been paid within five days of the date it was due. The late fee can't be more than $50 or 5% of the monthly rent, whichever is less. (N.Y. Real Prop. § 238-a (2023).)
Can New York landlords raise the rent?
New York landlords must follow rent control and rent stabilization laws if any apply to their property. These laws can vary depending on where the rental is located.
During the term of a long-term lease, the landlord can't raise the rent unless the lease specifically allows them to do so.
In situations where a tenant has lived in the rental for at up to a year and the landlord wants to raise the rent by 5% or more, the landlord must give 30 days' notice. When the tenant has occupied the rental from one to two years and the landlord wants to raise the rent by 5% or more, the landlord must give 60 days' notice. When the tenant has lived in the rental for two or more years and the landlord wants to raise the rent by 5% or more, the landlord must give 90 days' notice.
Renters should always review their lease or rental agreement to see if it specifies how and when a landlord can increase the rent.
What is a tenant's remedy when a New York landlord doesn't make repairs?
Every New York lease contains a warranty that the rental will be habitable—even if the warranty isn't written explicitly in the lease. This means that the landlord must ensure that the rental is fit for habitation and doesn't pose a risk to anyone's life, health, or safety. (N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-b (2023).)
If the repairs needed are severe—enough to make it so the tenant can't safely live in the rental—a court might consider the tenant to be "constructively evicted." This means that the tenant has the right to move out without further liability for rent. Tenants should consult with an attorney before moving out due to a situation like this, because if the tenant's assessment of the damage is incorrect, the landlord might be able to sue the tenant for the remaining rent due under the lease.
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. It is important to note that eviction laws and rules may be different depending on whether the rental property is located within New York City or outside the city, and whether the property is rent regulated or not.
Landlords who want to terminate a long-term lease early must have cause—a legal reason—to do so. (If you're looking for information about evicting a tenant in a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized property, be sure to check the local rules, as they might differ from the rules that apply statewide.) To start the eviction process, the landlord must give the tenant written notice. The type of notice needed will be determined by the reason.
How much notice a New York landlord must give a tenant with a month-to-month rental agreement depends on how long the tenant has been living in the rental.
(N.Y. Prop. Law § 226-c (2023).)
Tenants who wish to end their month-to-month rental agreement should read the agreement for information about how to properly end it. If no guidelines are given, the tenant must give one month's notice. (N.Y. Prop. Law § 232-b (2023).)
In all states, even in the absence of a statute, landlords can enter a rental without giving notice in order to deal with a true emergency (an imminent and serious threat to health, safety, or property); and when the tenant has abandoned the property moved out without an intent to return).
New York law doesn't specify how much notice landlords should give before entering a property. A good rule of thumb is that landlords should give at least 48 hours' written notice when the reason for entry isn't urgent, and should enter only during reasonable daytime hours on weekdays.
What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in New York small claims court?
Outside of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties, you can sue for up to $5,000 in City Courts or up to $3,000 in Town and Village Courts.
New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County have different rules. In New York City, you can sue for up to $10,000. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, you can sue for up to $5,000.
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, start by checking citations for New York landlord-tenant statutes. To access the statutes themselves, see the state section of the Library of Congress's legal research site. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent."
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in New York, and then do a search for the codes or ordinances when you're on the site.
State and Local Government on the Net and Municode (click on "Code Library" in the main menu) are good sources for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in New York.
Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in New York. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.
The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see the federal section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.
For a detailed analysis of current New York tenants' rights, check out the New York Attorney General's Residential Tenants' Rights Guide.
For more information on legal research, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.
You'll also find a wealth of information in Nolo's landlord-tenant books.