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The 8 Long Island Tenant Protection Laws You Must Know

If you are a residential landlord in Long Island, or are thinking of becoming one, then you must understand that New York law considers you to be in a position of power. With that power comes certain responsibilities, as well as certain things you can and cannot do in regards to your tenants.

Failing to observe these responsibilities can lead to expensive lawsuits. Here’s what you need to know.

#1) You must maintain a safe, clean property.

Tenants may sue for a rent reduction or even withhold rent if you fail to meet these conditions. According to the Attorney General:

“Landlords of  multiple buildings must keep the apartments and the building’s public areas in ‘good repair’ and clean and free of vermin, garbage, and other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and ventilation systems and appliances landlords install (such as refrigerators and stoves) in good and safe working order. All repairs must be made within a reasonable time period. Such time period may vary depending upon the severity of the repairs.” 

Your tenants can sue you for reduced rent if you fail to do this, or in some cases even withhold rent altogether. 

#2) You must notify your tenants before commencing with maintenance work.

Tenants of course make their own maintenance requests, and in those cases you can just knock on the door. Doing work the tenant didn’t ask for requires you to give the tenant 7-days notice in advance if the repair is in the unit.

If the repair is in a public area it’s enough to post prominent notices 24 hours prior to the work being done.

#3) Rent raises are regulated.

You must provide tenants with notice if you plan to raise the rent by more than 5%. The amount of notice depends both on the lease length and the length of time the tenant has been in the property.

  • 30 days notice for tenants with leases of less than one year.
  • 60 days for tenants who have lived in the property for 1-2 years.
  • 90 days notice for tenants who have lived in the property for over 2 years or who have a 2 year lease.

#4) You must handle security deposits carefully.

First, be aware you can only charge a security deposit equal to one month’s rent as of 2019.

Second, be aware you don’t own the security deposit. You can use it to pay for damages, or to cover unpaid rent, but you don’t own it. You need to open an escrow account where the deposit will sit until you either use it for its legal purpose or refund it to the tenant. 

You must return the security deposit (or what’s left of it) within 14 days of the tenant’s move-out date. 

#5) You must give notice if you are not going to renew a lease.

The specific amount of time depends on how long the tenants have been in the apartment:

  • 30 days if the tenant has lived there for less than one year.
  • 60 days if the tenant has lived there 1-2 years.
  • 90 days if the tenant has been in the unit longer than two years or has a 2-year lease.

#6) Rent controlled and stabilized apartments carry extra obligations.

They’re outside the scope of this post, but the times you may raise the rent and the amount by which it is raised are strictly regulated. The ways in which an apartment may pass from being controlled to uncontrolled are also strictly regulated.

Check with your lawyer before making major moves with your rent controlled apartments. 

#7) Eviction is a process. 

The way you go about that process will depend largely on why you are attempting to evict the tenant. 

For example if the tenant has violated the lease you must send a 30-day notice allowing them to correct the problem. 

Evictions for failing to pay rent must follow the following process.

  1. Send a 14-day Demand for Rent Notice.
  2. File an eviction lawsuit. A third party must serve the tenants with notice at least 5 days before the court date, which must take place within 12 days of being served.
  3. The tenant can stop the eviction process at any time prior to their court date by paying the rent.

The restrictions are a little looser if you are dealing with month-to-month tenants who have been month-to-month tenants all along, but you must still follow a step-by-step legal process. You can’t simply lock tenants out or toss their belongings on the street.

Keep in mind the court may not automatically grant an eviction as fast as you want them to. Courts are now considering how evictions may effect the health and well-being of the family, including children whose school attendance may be disrupted. They may give the family extra time to leave, for example. The answer here is to screen your tenants as best as you can to avoid problems.

Retaliatory evictions are illegal, and illegal evictions are a misdemeanor crime and may be punished by fines of $1000 to $10,000 per violation. 

#8) Blacklists are banned.

If a tenant takes you to court you can’t try to retaliate against the tenant by providing other landlords with their name. The practice of “blacklisting” tenants got outlawed in 2019.

You also may not reject a tenant just because you know they’ve been in a court case with a prior landlord. 

If you’re going to be a landlord you need to have a lawyer. 

Landlord-tenant relationships can break down quickly. The legal issues surrounding them are always complex. 

Small mistakes can cost thousands of dollars.

Need help? Contact the Law Office of Sami Perez today.

See also:

When Does a Landlord’s Behavior Become Tenant Harassment

5 Ways to Minimize Liability at Your Long Island Rental Property

Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 Signed Into Law