The laws governing NYC landlord-tenant relationships have evolved over many decades
and are extremely complex. As a result, there is a continual need for understanding and
up-to-date information on tenant's rights. I hope that you will keep this information
handy and that it will be useful to you. If you have a particular situation of concern to
you that requires more detailed information, it is always a good idea to consult a
A lease is a contract between a landlord and tenant which contains the terms and
conditions of the rental. It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties
agree. Leases for apartments which are not stabilized may be oral or written. However,
to avoid disputes the parties may wish to enter into a written agreement. An oral lease
for more than one year cannot be legally enforced.
At a minimum. leases should specify the names and addresses of the parties, the amount and
due dates of the rent, the duration of the rental, the conditions of occupancy, and the
rights and obligations of both parties. except where the law provides otherwise, a
landlord may rent on such terms and conditions as are agreed to by the parties.
Leases must use words with common and everyday meanings and must be clear and coherent.
Sections of leases must be appropriately captioned and the print must be large enough to
Unless the lease states otherwise, the apartment must be made available to the tenant at
the beginning of the tenancy. If the apartment is not available when agreed, the tenant
has the right to cancel the lease and obtain a full refund of any deposit.
Lease provision which exempt landlords from liability for injuries to persons or property
caused by the landlord's negligence - or that of his employees - are null and void.
Further, a lease provision that waives the tenants right to a jury trial in any lawsuit
brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury or properly damage
is also null and void.
Except fore rent-regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the
consent of the landlord. A lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case,
the landlord must give the tenant advance notice for the existence of this clause between
15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the landlord of an intention not to
renew the lease. Fore rent-stabilized tenants, the landlord must give written notice to
the tenant of the right to renewal no more than 150 days and not less than 90 days prior
to the end of the lease.
Rent Security Deposits
Virtually all leases require tenants to give their landlords a security deposit. The
security deposit is usually one-month's rent. The landlord must return the security
deposit, unless there is a lawful deduction, to the tenant at the end of the lease or
within a reasonable time thereafter. A landlord may use the security deposit:
a) As reimbursement for the reasonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the
tenant damages the apartment, or
b) As reimbursement for any unpaid rent.
In NYC in apartments where rent stabilization laws apply, the landlord may not charge
more than the legal regulated rent. Under the state housing law, landlords must register
each rent-stabilized apartment with DHCR and provide tenants annually with a copy of the
registration statement. Tenants may also obtain a copy of the rent history for their
apartment directly from DHCR. A tenant may only challenge rents and collect any
overcharges going back four years from the tenant's filing a complaint. The tenant is
also entitled to recover interest, plus reasonable costs and attorney's fees, for the
In addition, if the overcharge is willful, the landlord is liable for a penalty of
three times the amount of the overcharge. The penalty includes the amount of the
overcharge itself. The landlord has the burden of providing the overcharge is not willful.
This treble damages penalty is limited to two years.
Lease Succession Rights
Family members living in an apartment not covered by rent control
or rent stabilization generally have no right to succeed a tenant who dies
or permanently vacates the premises. The rights of a "family member" living in a rent
controlled or rent stabilized apartment to succeed a tenant of record who dies or
permanently vacates are covered by statute.
Senior Citizen Lease Terminations
Tenants or their spouses living with them who are sixty-two years or older,
or who will attain such age during the tern of their leases, are entitled to
terminate their leases if they relocate to an adult care facility, a residential
health care facility, subsidized low-income or other senior citizen housing.
Following appropriate notice, a landlord may bring a summary non-payment court
proceeding to evict a tenant who fails to pay the agreed rent when due and to recover
outstanding rent. A landlord may also bring a summary holdover eviction proceeding if, for
example, a tenant significantly violates a substantial obligation under the lease, such as
using the premises for illegal purposes, committing or permitting a nuisance, or staying
beyond the lease term without permission.
To evict a tenant or occupant who has resided in a residential unit for 30 days or more, a
landlord may sue in court and win the case. Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can
carry out a court ordered warrant to evict a tenant. A landlord many not take the law
into his/her own hands and evict a tenant by use of force or unlawful means.
A tenant who is put out of his/her apartment in a coercible or unlawful manner is entitled
to recover triple damages in a legal action against the wrongdoer. Landlords in NYC who
use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil
penalties. Further, the tenant is entitled to be restored to occupancy.
It is wise to consult an attorney to protect your legal rights if your landlord seeks
possession of your apartment. Never ignore legal papers.