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New York Landlord/Tenant Law Blog

Brooklyn landlords pay for harassing their tenants

Most of the landlord-tenant laws in New York are in place to protect the tenant. This means that they can ultimately hurt the landlords' ability to make as much money as they may like. Therefore, many landlords try to circumvent the laws or in some cases simply ignore or violate them in order to make extra money. Many can get away with it because many tenants do not know their rights. However, tenants have many rights and landlords who violate them may find themselves in a landlord-tenant dispute.

Recently, a landlord in Brooklyn reached a settlement with the Attorney General for $132,000 for violating the laws surrounding lease buyouts. The landlords illegally approached their tenants offering them buyouts of their rent stabilized apartments without giving them prior notice. They also did not properly advise the tenants of their rights regarding the buyout. The Attorney General stated that the landlords were harassing their tenants into taking the buyouts.

What should you expect from your landlord?

If you finally found an apartment you can afford in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, you are probably excited to settle in and start establishing yourself in the neighborhood. You will want to see how long it takes you to get to work from your new home and learn about the best places to get your favorite coffee or pizza.

You will certainly want to get to know your neighbors and learn the idiosyncrasies of life in your building. Hopefully, your fellow tenants won't be sharing stories about freezing winters when the heat is off and the shady characters who live on the third floor. In fact, there are certain expectations you may have as a tenant.

Understanding the basics of rent stabilization

People in New York have seen prices rise in almost every aspect of life over the years. Things simply cost more than they used to. This includes the amount of rent that they must pay. Landlords would love to raise the rent in many of their buildings, but there are certain rules in place that at least control how quickly the landlords can raise their rent. These are known as rent stabilization rules and ensure that rent cannot be increased too much, too quickly.

Landlords can only increase rent during a lease renewal or new lease, according to the rent stabilization guidelines. Currently, that means they can only increase rent from the previous amount of rent 1.25 percent for one year leases and 2 percent for two year leases. They also must keep records of the rent to ensure that tenants know how much rent can be increased.

When can a tenant legally not pay their full rent?

Many tenants in New York feel like they are in a difficult position with their landlords when things go wrong. They do not necessarily know what their rights are or how to enforce them. They feel that they need to continue paying their rent no matter what happens just to ensure that they have a place to live. While for the most part this is true, there are certain legal obligations that landlords must provide to their tenants and, if they do not, the tenant may be able to legally withhold all or a portion of their rent.

There is a warranty of habitability in every lease. This means that the landlord must provide certain utilities, such as heat and hot water, and they must keep the building safe and provide other necessities to make an apartment livable. They are also required to make repairs when things break down in apartments. However, landlords do not always do this, which can lead to landlord/tenant disputes.

Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants in New York

There are many rules and regulations that govern the landlord/tenant relationship in New York. These rules are in place to help protect tenants and ensure that the building is fit and safe to live in. However, these rules and regulations can also sometimes cost the landlord more money. As landlords often earn their income through these rentals, they may want to maximize their returns and cut corners in order to save some money.

This is illegal and can, in some cases, put the tenants in danger. So, tenants may start by making complaints to the landlords to see if they will make the appropriate changes, but this may prove useless. Tenants may have no other choice but to go to the authorities to report the violations. This oftentimes will get the landlords in trouble, which most likely will upset the landlords and cause landlord/tenant disputes. They may try to get rid of the tenant who reported the violations. However, this type of retaliation is also illegal.

I've been offered a buyout. Now what?

The rental landscape for tenants in New York is unlike any other city in the country. Rent regulation and the basic laws of supply and demand create complex scenarios for tenants, landlords and developers alike.

For tenants, the prospect of an increase in rent prices or losing a home to a developer is frightening. However, tenants are still entitled to certain rights under the law. How do tenants negotiate after being offered a buyout of rent-controlled or rent-regulated property?

What are tenants' rights to security deposits in New York?

At the start of a lease, most people in New York do two things: sign a lease and give a security deposit to the landlord. Then, throughout the lease term, the landlord expects that the tenant will pay rent each month. The tenant expects that the landlord keeps the utilities on, that they have heat, hot water and the doors are secure. Sometimes these things do not occur though, and can lead to landlord-tenant disputes during the course of the lease.

However, there can be landlord/tenant disputes after the lease is terminated as well. The main one surrounds the return of the security deposit. When the tenant initially gives the landlord the security deposit, that money must be put into a separate bank account from the landlord's operating account. This money also must accrue interest. The landlord is allowed to keep 1 percent of this interest, but the rest of it must go to the tenant. If the interest rate is below 1 percent, the landlord can keep it all.

Protecting tenants' rights against powerful landlords

New York has a large amount of rental properties and apartments. Many, many people rent their homes and it is a way of life for these people. These apartment buildings are operated by landlords, who run these as their business. These apartment buildings are how they make their money. Therefore, they have many incentives to bend or break the rules in order to make more money.

This is especially true because there are still many rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments in New York, which cap what landlords can charge for rent. However, the way that the laws are written, they can start charging more when a person vacates an apartment. This is another reason that landlords have incentives to break leases or get their tenants to break them or leave.

What you need to know if served eviction papers

When a New York landlord serves a tenant with eviction papers, the tenant may feel that he or she is powerless to do anything about the situation. No matter the details of your current situation and the attempt to evict you from your current rented habitation, you still have rights. Even though you do not own the property, there are limits to what your landlord can and cannot do. 

It is within your best interests to know your rights in the event that you receive eviction papers. First, your landlord must have valid grounds to evict you. If there are no valid grounds or you experience a violation of your rights in any way, you may have cause to fight back and seek to protect your interests.

Realty management company pays major fines for violations

From time to time things break down for people in New York. People understand this happens and when it does most people want to ensure those things are fixed or replaced. If it is personal property, the person is responsible for doing this. However, if there is something wrong in the person's apartment or in the apartment building, the expectation is that the landlord will fix or replace the problem. If fact, there are certain things that the landlord is legally responsible for fixing.

Recently a property management company paid $500,000 for fines in a settlement reached with the Attorney General for multiple violations in their various properties. The Attorney General stated that the management company failed to keep adequate heat in the buildings at all times, the cooking gas would not work for extended period of times, hot water was inconsistent and other violations.

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