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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.

At the end of the lease, the landlord must return the deposit plus any interest to the tenant, with a couple of exceptions. One is that the landlord is able to keep the security deposit for any unpaid rent. The other is that they can use the security deposit to pay for damages to the apartment beyond normal wear and tear. The landlord must return the security deposit within a reasonable time after the lease ends as well. Sometimes landlords do not return the security deposit though, or they claim damages that are simply wear and tear. If this occurs, the tenant may be able to file a lawsuit against the landlord in small claims court.

Landlords in New York are trying to make money by renting apartments. This means that sometimes they will try to take more money than what they are entitled to, and one way they do that is by keeping security deposits. However, in many situations, the landlord has no right to keep the security deposit.

Source:, "Security Deposits FAQ," October 10, 2017

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