Rigths as a tenant (part II)

Landlord-Tenant relationship. Do I have any rights if I am the tenant? (part II)

As I said in April, yes, you do have rights. In the last article, I talked about the lease, lease terms, renewals, termination notices, etc. In this article, I will discuss the rent, security deposits and apartment sharing.


The Rent

A landlord is free to charge any rent agreed upon by the parties. In fact, a landlord can charge a tenant $1,000 in April of 2014 and $500 to a different tenant in May of 2014 for the use of the unit. If the unit is subject to rent regulation, the initial rent and subse¬quent rent increases are set by law.

Landlords must provide tenants with a written receipt when rent is paid in cash, a money order, a cashier’s check or in any form other than the personal check of a tenant. Where a ten¬ant pays the rent by personal check, the tenant may request in writing a rent receipt from the landlord. Pursuant to Real Property Law § 235-e, the receipt must state the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the apartment number. The receipt must be signed by the person receiving the payment and state his or her title.

It is illegal for any person to require a prospective tenant to pay a bonus– commonly called “key money”– above the lawful rent and security deposit, for preference in renting a vacant apartment. Key money is not to be confused with fees that may be legally charged by a licensed real estate broker. Please see, Penal Law § 180.55.


A tenant may only challenge rents and collect any overcharg¬es 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 overcharge proceeding.

Security Deposits

Virtually all leases require tenants to give their landlords a security deposit. The security deposit is usually one month’s rent. If a lease is renewed at a greater amount or the rent is increased during the term of the lease, the owner is permitted to collect additional money from the tenant in order to bring the security deposit up to the new monthly rent. A landlord may use the security deposit as a reimbursement for the rea¬sonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the tenant damages the apartment, or a reimbursement for any unpaid rent.

The landlord must return the security deposit, less any law¬ful deduction, to the tenant at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter. The landlord is obligated to re¬turn the security deposit whether or not the tenant asks for its return. To avoid any disputes, the tenant should thoroughly inspect the apartment with the landlord before moving in and document any pre-existing conditions. Upon vacating, the tenant should leave the apartment in clean condition, remov¬ing all personal belongings and trash from the apartment, and making any minor repairs needed.

Landlords are entitled to collect annual administrative ex¬penses of one percent of the deposit.. All other interest earned on the deposits belongs to the tenants. Tenants must be given the option of having this interest paid to them annually, applied to rent, or paid at the end of the lease term. If the building has fewer than six apartments, a landlord who voluntarily places the security deposits in an interest bearing bank account must also follow these rules.

Apartment Sharing

It is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apart¬ment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and im¬mediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant’s dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant’s spouse occupies the premises as their primary residence.

When the lease names more than one tenant, these ten¬ants may share their apartment with immediate family, and, if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant’s spouse must occupy the shared apartment as a primary residence.

We will discuss in the next article the eviction process.

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 joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. 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 June edition.

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