Massive Changes in NYS Landlord-Tenant Law

I recently attended a useful seminar organized by the Rockland County Bar Association in Suffern, NY on some far-reaching changes in the state landlord-tenant laws. These laws are intended to assist tenants who cannot pay their rent, but they also carry some heavy burdens for landlords and the attorneys who represent them.

On June 14, the New York State Legislature passed a set of new landlord-tenant laws, effective immediately, and these laws promise to completely transform the nature of the legal interactions between landlords and tenants, especially in cases of eviction.

Under the old laws, a landlord could begin an eviction proceeding against a tenant who was not paying rent by first serving a three-day notice and thereafter with a summary proceeding and a warrant and judgment signed by a judge. The non-paying tenant then was often told by the court to seek social services assistance to help find alternative housing.

The new laws change this system in many important ways, nearly all of them to benefit tenants. Now, a landlord must send a letter to the tenant in cases of nonpayment stating that he or she has not received rent. Then, if payment is still not made, the landlord can then begin an eviction proceeding, but the three-day notice requirement is now extended to fourteen days, and if payment by the tenant is made in that time, the landlord must by law accept it.

Once filed at court, the eviction proceeding needs a return date to be served at least ten and no more than seventeen days before the scheduled hearing.

These new laws also include several ways that tenants can seriously delay the proceeding. Now, the judge must grant the tenant’s first request for an adjournment (at least fourteen days), with second requests to be granted at the court’s discretion. Perhaps most importantly of all, the new laws also allow tenants to request a stay of warrant for up to a year if “the application is made in good faith and the applicant cannot secure suitable premises” in cases of “serious ill health, a child’s enrollment in local school and any other extenuating life circumstances affecting the ability of the applicant or the applicant’s family to relocate and maintain quality of life” (Amended RPAPL 753). Previously, this was a NYC-only rule, but now it is applied statewide.

Several other changes include new regulations limiting rent increases from one lease agreement to another to no more than 5%.

I can understand the intent of these changes as the new laws attempt to even the playing field between landlords and tenants. However, it does appear as if the pendulum has swung too far in favor of tenants’ rights. The new laws place much of the financial burden on the shoulders (and pockets) of landlords. If you are a landlord or thinking of becoming one in New York, be very careful and cautious as to whom you rent your property.