On June 14, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Housing Stability and Protection Act of 2019 effectively codifying a new era in the State’s landlord-tenant regime. As the name suggests, the law puts into effect widespread regulation aimed at protecting and promoting tenants’ rights. If you are a landlord, this Act may have you wondering how these changes may affect your business dealings going forward. In short, many aspects of prior leases may need to be revisited, revised or scrapped altogether to ensure full compliance with the new regulatory landscape.
The purpose of the Act was to provide strengthened protection for 2.4 million tenants in New York City living in rent regulated apartments. However, the bill is over 70 pages and contains an expansive patchwork of laws which apply to all renters statewide, regardless of whether the leased premises are rent-controlled. Among these changes, the most notable and far reaching are the changes relating to security deposits and eviction procedures. These changes significantly limit landlord’s rights and could significantly hinder a landlord’s ability to remove disruptive tenants.
Security deposits are now limited to one month’s rent and application fees are disallowed except for amounts actually expended upon a background check which is capped at $20. Under the statutory framework, landlords are subject to stringent requirements relative to the release of security deposits at the end of the lease. Within two weeks of the termination of the lease, a landlord must return the deposit or provide an itemized list of all deductions from the security deposit.
Late fees are also now capped at the lesser of $50.00 or 5% of the monthly rent, and may only be charged after payment is late by five or more days. If rent is not received within five days of the date specified in the lease to receive payment, landlords are required to send a written notice by certified mail to the tenant demanding payment. Failure to send this notice provides the tenant an affirmative defense in a nonpayment summary proceeding. The statutory changes provide tenants with additional time to make payment after receipt of a demand and further provide tenants additional time to answer a petition after a summary proceeding in commenced.
Where such proceeding is based upon a claim that the tenant has breached a provision of the lease, the court may grant a thirty-day stay of issuance of the warrant (up from ten days), during which time the tenant may cure its default. If a tenant has been evicted, judges may stay execution of a warrant for up to one year (up from six months) if the tenant is unable to find alternate housing in the neighborhood. Finally, in determining whether to grant a stay, judges are directed to consider how an eviction will affect a tenant’s well-being, including the tenant’s health and the school enrollment of the tenant’s children. Evictions will now take longer and can be significantly delayed by the tenant’s unique circumstances which are wholly outside of the control of the landlord.
Beware that the law imposes harsh penalties for failure to legally evict a tenant. An unlawful eviction is now a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a civil penalty of between $1,000 and $10,000. As a result, the changes to the eviction procedure are potentially the most far-reaching and significantly changed aspect of the landlord tenant law.
This post is not to be construed as legal advice but is merely a brief overview of the changes in the law. If you have any questions about your situation, please call our offices today at (716) 636-7600.