Rentals represent a major portion of the real estate activity on the East End of Long Island, both the North and South Forks. This is the first of a series of articles. We will share comments of realtors regarding location, price, amenities, including seasonal, short-term, and long-term rentals, but first, we think it is important to clarify some basics regarding landlord tenant relationships.
First, it should be noted that the Town of Southampton requires a rental permit in the unincorporated areas of the Town. Both landlords and tenants, as well as property managers, may be penalized for violations of this law. Rentals of fewer than fourteen days are prohibited, and the occupants must meet the definition of “traditional family.” Anyone interested in renting should consult the Town of Southampton before proceeding.
The Towns and Villages throughout the East End have laws to prevent overcrowding, the number of individuals who may occupy in order to assure the health and safety of the occupants.
Federal, State, and Local Fair Housing Laws protect groups of people who have suffered a history of discrimination. Suffolk County is among local governments that have some of the most stringent protections. Included among them is the refusal to rent to families with children. This violates, federal, state, and local laws.
I have seen a so-called “standard form of lease” that states, “only the tents named on the lease may occupy the premises.” New York Law requires that each tenant must be permitted to have one person not named on the lease occupy the unit with them, not to exceed the number of people who may lawfully occupy.
There are often misunderstandings regarding issues such as when the rent is due – the end of the month, unless the lease states otherwise. Rules regarding sub-leasing and assignment – either may be done unless prohibited by the lease, and sometimes, not even then.
Another common misunderstanding is with respect to Security Deposits. New York Law governs Security Deposits. The landlord must deposit these funds in an escrow account, and the funds are the property of the tenant, not the landlord, and must be refunded to the tenant within a reasonable time after the expiration of the lease except for damage to the landlord’s property caused by the tenant, other than normal wear and tear.
It is not uncommon for landlords and tenants to presume that absent a written lease there is no lease. This is not true. In fact, under New York Law, a lease for a year or less entered into orally by a landlord and tenant is binding, although it is prudent to have all agreements in writing.
What about a tenant who wishes to vacate before the lease expires? Are they still obligated to pay rent through the end of the lease? They are, unless there is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant stating otherwise.
Federal Law requires that landlords of properties constructed prior to 1978 for sale or rental, disclose to the buyer or tenant information regarding lead. The Environmental Protection Agency imposes penalties for non-compliance against landlords and their agents. Rentals of fewer than 100 days, studio, single bedroom, loft apartments and housing designed exclusively for residents 62 years or older and housing already to be certified as “lead-free” are exempt.
Many leases include the tenant’s right to renew the lease. Some may give the tenant the right to purchase the property, similar, but not the same as a right of first refusal. Each of these should be considered only after seeking legal counsel.
The process of eviction is another matter that should only be pursued after seeking legal counsel. If carried out improperly, the consequences may be very costly for the landlord. When the tenant violates the lease, the landlord is seeking an actual eviction. When the landlord violates the lease rendering the premises wholly or partially uninhabitable, it may result in a constructive eviction. All leases contain what is known as a warranty of habitability – the obligation of the landlord to maintain the property in a healthy and safe manner.
Insurance is another matter. A landlord who wishes to rent, should consult and insurance professional before doing so. If a fire occurs on the premises due to an accident caused by the tenant, who is responsible? What about the tenant’s personal property?
These are only some of the issues with respect to landlord tenant relations. Each could be expanded upon.
In our next article, we will hear from realtors who represent landlords and tenants.