The new law became effective on June 14, 2019. While a significant portion of the new laws affect only municipalities that have adopted rent regulation laws – the five boroughs of New York City, Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland Counties – all municipalities, including Suffolk County, are affected by significant changes.
Prior to the new law, just as rents were a matter of what the market would bear, security deposits fell into that same category. Now a landlord may not require more than one month’s rent including utilities charges to compensate the landlord for unpaid rent and damage caused to the landlord’s property by the tenant during the term of the lease, other than normal wear and tear. Further, the landlord must provide the tenant with the opportunity to inspect the property along with the landlord, at least fourteen days of the tenant’s vacating the property and provide them with a list of the charges. In the past, the law required the landlord to return the security deposit, less the funds retained, “within a reasonable time.” The law now requires that the refund be made to the tenant within fourteen days of vacating. Any challenges to the amounts deducted impose the burden of proof upon the landlord. The law has not changed with respect to the deposit of the funds. They must be deposited into an escrow account. If the property is six or more units, the funds must be deposited into an interest baring account, and any interest exceeding 1% is to be paid to the tenant.
The new law also requires that if a landlord intends to raise the rent more than 5% upon the expiration of the current lease, he must provide the tenant with a 60 day notice if the tenant has been in occupancy more than one year but less than two, and a ninety day notice if the tenant has been in occupancy at least two years. Option to renew clauses are part of the existing lease.
Another change involves a tenant’s eviction by the landlord. While a court may issue an eviction notice to the tenant, courts have often “stayed the execution” (postponed) for up to six months for certain hardships that an immediate eviction could cause the tenant. That period has been extended to up to one year at the discretion of the court.
The new law requires that a landlord provide the tenant with a fourteen-day notice of violation of a lease, and the tenant be allowed thirty days to correct the violation rather than ten. A landlord who commits an illegal eviction commits a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 for each violation and may also be subject to criminal prosecution.
Also contained in the law, a landlord may not charge more than $20.00 for background checks or application fees.
Before the passage of the new law, if a tenant vacated the premises voluntarily before the expiration of the lease, the courts in New York did not impose any obligation upon the landlord to make a good-faith effort to re-rent the apartment for the same or more than the amount due from the vacating tenant or lose the right to the remaining rent. Under the new law, the landlord must make that effort or forfeit the remaining amount due from the vacating tenant.
These laws are contained in S: 6458, and A: 8281 of the New York State Legislature.