Tenant Laws and Community Standards

In June of 2019 New York State Senate passed “Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019” these laws were retroactive and took effect immediately in June 2019 and the rest in July 2019. The New York State Attorney General’s office created a guide “Changes in New York State Rental Law – What you need to know” while they update the New York State Attorney Generals Tenants Rights Guide. 

Landlords can only charge up to one month of rent for a security deposit or “advance payment.” This applies to all residential rentals, with a few exceptions, whether you have a lease or not.  This means that if you are moving into an apartment where the rent is $1500 a month, the most your landlord can charge for a security deposit is $1500.  This also means that your landlord may not charge you in advance for the last month’s rent if you are also paying a security deposit. The security deposit and disposition form must be returned to the tenant within 14 days of the lease end. Landlords are only allowed to collect current monthly rent due.    

A rent payment can only be considered late if it is received more than five days after it is due. The most your landlord can charge as a late fee is $50 or 5% of your monthly rent, whichever is less.   

Before signing a lease, the most a landlord can charge is $20 for a credit and background check.  The landlord has to give you a copy of the background/credit check, as well as an invoice from the company that performed it. Otherwise, they can’t charge you for it.  You can provide your own background and credit check to avoid any fees, as long as the background/credit check was done in the past 30 days.   

If you leave your apartment or other rental home before your lease ends, your landlord has to make a good-faith effort to fill the vacancy. If the landlord finds a new tenant, and the new tenant’s rent is equal or higher to your rent, your lease is considered terminated and you are no longer liable for the rent.

Your landlord must return your security deposit within 14 days of you moving out.  If your landlord takes any money out of the security deposit for damages, they must provide an itemized “receipt” describing the damage and its cost. If your landlord doesn’t give you this receipt within 14 days of moving out, then they must return your entire security deposit, whether there is damage or not.   If you are planning to move out, you can ask your landlord to inspect the apartment (or rental home or other type of home rental) before you move. They must allow you to be present during the inspection.  At that inspection, the landlord must tell you what needs to be fixed or cleaned. You can then take care of the problems yourself to prevent the landlord from keeping part or all of your security deposit.    

If your landlord deliberately breaks this law, you may be entitled to up to twice the amount of the security deposit.  A landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent an apartment before they can charge a former tenant who left before the end of the lease for the rent for the rest of the lease.   

Landlords must give tenants the opportunity for a walk-through before they move in and before they move out, and return the security deposit within 14 days with an itemized list of any deductions.    

Landlords cannot charge late fees until rent is five days late and the late fee cannot be more than $50 or 5% of the monthly rent, whichever is less. 

Previously, landlords could recover any legal fees incurred within the context of a residential nonpayment or holdover proceeding. Now, landlords can only collect “rent,” defined in the Act as the “monthly or weekly amount charged in consideration for use and occupancy.” The law also now prohibits the collection of extraneous charges, such as late fees and penalties, and precludes the recovery of legal fees. It is anticipated that these additional charges could likely be recoverable in a separate lawsuit.   The Act reinforces a tenant’s ability to collect attorneys’ fees.