Can I restrict occupancy of an apartment to only those persons who sign a lease?

It is UNLAWFUL to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family (Real Property Law § 235-f). A tenant may share an apartment with any of the following:

1.    If there is one Tenant named in theLease-

     a. Named Tenant's immediate family.
     b. One additional occupant and that occupant's dependent children provided the tenant or tenant's spouse occupies the property as a principal residence (if the          tenant or tenant's spouse moves out, the occupant has no right to stay).

2.    If more than one Tenant is named inLease-

     a. Each named tenant's immediate family.
     b. If a tenant moves out, the tenant can be replaced with another occupant and dependant children of the occupant but at least one of the named tenant's or named          tenant's spouse must reside in the premises as primary residence.

However, a Landlord may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. Also, a tenant must inform the landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of a landlord's request for this information.


Do discrimination laws apply to the rental of an apartment or house?

Federal law prohibits discrimination in renting real estate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability).

State law makes it illegal to refuse to rent any housing accommodation or represent that any housing accommodation is not available for inspection or rental because of the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, age, disability, marital status, or familial status of such person or persons. (See Executive Law Section 296(1-a)).

It is also necessary to be aware of local laws as well. For example, the City of Buffalo has a local ordinance (154-12) that also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression or source of income (does not apply to owner occupied 3 units or less or if more than one structure none of which is more than 3 units if one is owner occupied). Penalty is $1,500 for each offense (plus costs) and revocation of any license or permit. Other localities may have other laws that need to be examined.


Does a landlord have an obligation to protect tenant's against a crime?
Landlords are required to take minimal precautions to protect against reasonably foreseeable criminal harm. For example, tenants who are victims of crimes in their building or apartment, and who are able to prove that the criminal was an intruder and took advantage of the fact that the entrance to the building was negligently maintained by the landlord, may be able to recover damages from the landlord.


Can a victim of domestic violence terminate a lease before the end of the lease term?
A tenant shielded by a court order of protection is permitted, on ten days' notice to the landlord, to seek a court order terminating the lease, and will be released from any further rental payments after the lease is terminated. The tenant must demonstrate that there continues to be a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to the tenant or the tenant's child from the party covered by the order of protection if the parties remain in the premises, and that relocation would substantially reduce that risk. The tenant must first attempt to secure the voluntary consent of the landlord to terminate the lease, and if the request is denied, a court may order termination as long as all payments due under the lease through the termination date of the lease have been paid. (See Real Property Law § 227-c).


What obligations does a landlord of a multiple dwelling have to supply heat?
Heat must be supplied from October 1 through May 31 to tenants in multiple dwellings. If the outdoor temperature falls below 55°F between the hours of six a.m. and ten p.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 68°F. If the outdoor temperature falls below 40°F between the hours of ten p.m. and six a.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 55°F. (See Multiple Dwelling Law § 79).


My tenant has a pet. Can I force the tenant to remove the pet from the apartment?
Tenants may keep pets in their apartments unless their lease specifically prohibits it. Landlords may be able to evict tenants who violate a lease provision prohibiting pets. However, the landlord may be prohibited from evicting a tenant for violation of a no pet provision if the landlord waits too long after learning the tenant has a pet. (See e.g. Met Life Ins. Co. v. Friedman, 613 NYS2d 8 (1st Dept., 1994) where the landlord was not permitted to evict a tenant for violating a no pet provision in a lease because the landlord waited 3 months to start the eviction proceeding, although the case is based on a New York City ordinance ).


I tried to evict a tenant for non payment of rent and the tenant raised as a defense a breach of Warranty of Habitability. What is the Warranty of Habitability?

Every written or oral lease or rental agreement for residential property is considered to contain a warranty by the landlored that the area rented to a tenant and all common or public areas of the building are fit for human habitation (i.e. the tenant has the right to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment) and that there are no conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to life, health or safety of the tenant or occupants. Examples of a breach of this warranty include the failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or the failure to rid an apartment of an insect infestation. The implied covenant is not considered breached by the landlord if a condition is crated by the misconduct of the tenant or any person under the tenant's direction or control. If a landlord breaches the warranty of habitability, the tenant may sue for a rent reduction. (See Real Property Law §235-b).


As a landlord, do I have the right to enter the tenant's apartment at any time for any reason?
Unfortunately, unlike many other States, New York does not have a statute that identifies the circumstances under which a landlord may enter a tenant's apartment. The rental of an apartment transfers possession of the apartment from the landlord to the tenant. A tenant has an expectation of not being disturbed. A landlord may only enter a tenant's apartment at reasonable times after giving reasonable advance notice (unless emergency repairs are necessary) for the purpose of making repairs, agreed upon improvements or as may specifically be provided under a lease. While a landlord may wish to show an apartment to prospective tenants, there is no specific law that permits it. Therefore, it is best to address in a lease or rental agreement the circumstances under which a landlord may enter the apartment or to show the apartment to prospective tenants, lenders and purchasers. This limited right of entry may not be abused or used to harass a tenant.


What obligation does a landlord have to inform a prospective tenant of what the heating bills are for an apartment?
Before signing a lease requiring payment of individual heating and cooling bills, prospective tenants are entitled to receive from the landlord a complete set or summary of the past two years' bills. These copies must be provided free upon written request. (See Energy Law § 17-103).


If a tenant has a disability, does the landlord have an obligation to make modifications to the property to accomodate a disability?
Landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities so that they may enjoy equal access to and use of housing accommodations. A "reasonable accommodation" is a policy or rule change that is related to a tenant's specific disability and does not impose extremely high costs on a landlord or cause harm or discomfort to other tenants, such as permitting a tenant who is blind or has a psychological disability to have a guide dog or a companion animal, despite a building's "no pets" policy. (See 42 U.S.C.A § 3604(f)(3)).

Additionally, a landlord may not refuse to permit, at the expense of the handicapped tenant, reasonable structural modifications of existing premises occupied by the tenant, if such modifications may be necessary to afford the tenant full use of the premises. Such modifications may include building a ramp or installing grab bars in the bathroom. However, the landlord may condition permission for a modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification.(See 42 U.S.C.A. § 3604(f)(3)).


There is an old vehicle on my rental property that no one seems to know anything about. Can I have it towed onto the street?

Abandoned vehicles are governed by Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1224. This law defines when a vehicle is considered abandoned, including a vehicle that is left unattended for more than 96 hours on property of another without permission. If there is an abandoned vehicle on the property, the local authorities should be contacted before disposing of any vehicle to verify that the vehicle has not been reported as stolen.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles provides the following instrustions:

"You may dispose of an unclaimed vehicle by following the appropriate procedures for filing a Garageman's Lien. The procedures are described in  form MV-901C (Instructions and Requirements for Filing New York State Garageman's Liens). If you are filing a Garageman's Lien for unpaid charges for towing and storage, and the wholesale value of the motor vehicle is less than $500.00, you can use the abbreviated procedure described in form MV-901DI (Instructions and Requirements for Completing MV-901D - "Garageman's Certification and Bill of Sale for Vehicles Worth Less Than $500").

To dispose of an abandoned vehicle, first contact the local authority that has jurisdiction over the abandoned vehicle. Local authorities are authorized to take custody of any abandoned vehicle in their jurisdiction, whether abandoned on public or private property.

If the local authority does not choose to exercise its authority to take custody and ownership of the abandoned vehicle, you may do one of the following, as appropriate:

  • If the motor vehicle has a wholesale value of $1,250.00 or less, and is ten or more model years old and has been abandoned for at least one month, you may transfer the vehicle to a registered vehicle dismantler or itinerant vehicle collector. Use Form MV-37 (Statement of Abandoned Vehicle). To calculate the first eligible model year, subtract 9 from the current calendar year. For example, 2010 minus 9 equals 2001, and eligible model years would be 2001 and older.

  • If the motor vehicle does not meet all of the preceding requirements, ask your local police agency to give a towing company an authorization to tow the vehicle away from your property."

(Source-New York State Department of Motor Vehicles).

























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Last Update: December 26, 2011