The 2019 New York State Housing Law made changes for more than just the landlords and tenants that are subject to rent stabilization in New York City. There are a number of substantial changes that have been made to enhance tenants’ rights throughout all of New York State. This will focus on those changes that affect all landlords and tenants in New York.

There are now restrictions on application fees and background searches. Landlords are no longer able to charge an application fees for potential tenants and there is a $20 limit on the landlord’s ability to recoup their cost of running a background check and credit check. This $20 limit must also be waived if the potential tenant provides a background check or credit check from the past 30 days.

Landlords are not permitted to reject potential tenants based on that potential tenant’s involvement in prior landlord/tenant litigation. If a landlord obtains a tenant screening report (i.e. a background/credit check) and the landlord subsequently reject the potential tenant, there is a rebuttable presumption that the landlord violated this law. The New York Attorney General can prosecute violations and issue a fine of $500 to $1,000 for each violation.

There are also new restrictions on Security Deposits. They cannot be more than 1 month of rent. Tenants are now entitled by law to an inspection with the landlord or the landlord’s agent during move in and move out. Landlords must itemize what the tenant’s Security Deposit is being used for within 14 days of moving out and return the balance of the Security Deposit or else they are deemed to have waived the right to retain any of the Security Deposit.

For rent payments, landlords must now provide written receipts for cash payments (and upon a tenant’s request in the event payments are made by check). These receipts must be dated, state the amount paid, the identity of the premises and the period for which the rent is paid for as well as the signature and title of the person receiving the rent. Landlords must save these receipts for at least 3 years.

Late fees are now limited to the lower of 5% of the monthly rent and $50 and can only accrue if the rent is late by 5 days or more.
In the event rent is late by 5 days or more, landlords are now required to provide written notice to the tenant. This notice must be sent by certified mail and the failure to provide such notice may be raised by the tenant as a defense in a non-payment proceeding.

For Lease Renewals, landlords must give prior written notice to tenants if the landlord intends to either not renew the lease or to raise the rent by 5% or more. The amount of notice required varies as follows:
If the tenant has occupied the property for less than 1 year and does not have a lease for a term of at least 1 year, notice must be at least 30 days;
If the tenant has a lease for a term of at least 1 year or has occupied the property for at least 1 year, notice must be at least
60 days; and
If the tenant has a lease for a term of at least 2 years or has occupied the property for at least 2 years, notice must be at least 90 days.
In the event a landlord fails to give such notice, the term is deemed to continue per the existing tenancy until the requisite notice period expires.

For summary proceedings, there have been a number of changes.

Rent Demands, the predicate notice for non-payment proceedings, now provide a cure period for the tenant of at least 14 days from the date of service.

For the termination of month to month tenancies in New York City, the requisite notice period is as follows:
If the tenant has occupied the property for less than 1 year and does not have a lease for a term of at least 1 year, notice must be at least 30 days;
If the tenant has a lease for a term of at least 1 year or has occupied the property for at least 1 year, notice must be at least
60 days; and
If the tenant has a lease for a term of at least 2 years or has occupied the property for at least 2 years, notice must be at least 90 days.

Only the weekly or month base rent may be recovered in a summary proceeding. No fees, charges or penalties (including late fees, legal fees, etc.) may be recovered. A separate action must now be brought.

Tenants now have additional time to review any Petition served on them and to answer same.

In the event a tenant pays the landlord the monthly rent sought in a non-payment proceeding, then a landlord cannot proceed with the proceeding.

Attorneys fees may no longer be recovered if there is a default judgment, which was previously possible if the tenant was personally served.

A landlord’s right to seek use and occupancy from a tenant during any proceeding accrues only after the later of a second adjournment or 60 days, minus time adjourned at petitioner’s request or an initial adjournment for a tenant to seek counsel. The penalty for tenant’s failure to pay use and occupancy has been lowered such that a trial proceed “as soon as practicable” (i.e. there is no longer a threat of the tenant’s answer and defenses being stricken).

Tenants have the right to request a 14 day adjournment for trials.

If a landlord evicts a tenant for a non-monetary breach of the lease, courts have to give tenants 30 days to cure that breach.

Courts have the right to stay any eviction issued for up to 1 year.

For Warrants, the marshal/sheriff must now provide a 14 day notice, as opposed to a 72 hour notice.

In the event a tenant pays the landlord the full amount of rent due, they are entitled to stay, unless the landlord can provide proof that the tenant withheld the rent in bad faith.

Landlords now have a duty to mitigate damages following an eviction of a tenant. This obligation requires the landlord to use good faith reasonable and customary actions to re-rent apartment at the lower of fair market value and the rent that was otherwise payable under terminated lease. This obligation to mitigate damages cannot be waived.

Unlawful evictions are now a crime.

Landlords are prohibited from performing Retaliatory Evictions. Landlords cannot try to evict tenants within one year of a tenant’s good faith complaint about the rental made to either the landlord or to a governmental authority. A “complaint” now includes any litigation brought by a tenant against the landlord to compel repairs. An “eviction” now includes the failure to renew the lease or to offer a lease with an “unreasonable” rent increase. There is a rebuttable presumption that the landlord is evicting a tenant in retaliation if same occurs within a year of any complaint. Landlords must show a non-retaliatory motive and tenants are entitled to recover their attorneys fees if the tenant prevails by raising a retaliatory eviction as a defense.

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