LANDLORD-TENANT RELATIONSHIP. DO I HAVE ANY RIGHTS IF I AM THE TENANT? (PART I)
Yes, you do! Any time you pay rent, you are a tenant. The owner of the place where you live is the landlord. When you pay rent for housing, you have a landlord-tenant relationship with the owner. A lease is a contract between a landlord and a tenant which contains the terms and conditions of the rental. It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree. Leases may be oral or written. However, to avoid disputes the parties may wish to enter into a written agreement. A party must sign the lease in order to be bound by its terms. An oral lease for more than one year cannot be legally enforced. See, General Obligations Law § 5-701.
At a minimum, leases should identify the premises, 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. Any changes to the lease should be initialed by both parties.
A landlord cannot include in the lease the following lease provisions: (1) Exempting landlords from liability for injuries to per¬sons or property caused by the landlord’s negligence, or that of the landlord’s employees or agents; (2) Waiving the tenant’s right to a jury trial in any lawsuit brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury or property damage; (3) Requiring tenants to pledge their household furniture as security for rent. See, General Obligations Law § 5-321; Real Property Law § 259-c and § 231. Of course, this does not mean that some landlords will not include these provisions. If they are included, they will be voided
If a lease states that the landlord may recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred if a lawsuit arises, a tenant automati¬cally has a reciprocal right to recover those fees as well. See, Real Property Law § 234.
What about the renewal of my lease?
A tenant may only re¬new the lease with the consent of the landlord and may be subject to eviction at the end of the lease term. However, a lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, the landlord must give the tenant advance notice of 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. See, General Obligations Law § 5-905.
What if I do not have a contract or lease and I pay monthly my rent?
Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called “month-to-month” tenants. Also, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. See, Real Property Law § 232-c. A month-to-month tenancy may be terminated by either party by giving at least one month’s no¬tice before the expiration of the tenancy.
A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. If the tenant does not consent, however, the land¬lord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice. See, Real Property Law § 232-a and § 232-b.
What about the termination notice?
The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of the apartment, only that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings. Such notice does not automati¬cally allow the landlord to evict the tenant.
We will discuss in the next article the rent, security deposits, evictions, etc.
You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about legal rights. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with a landlord-tenant relationship.
If you have any questions or concerns about any legal issue, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York 13202. Please look for my next article in the May edition.