Now protecting people who live in rent-regulated apartments, a new package of legislation passed in Albany aims to protect renters across the board and across the state, including here in Westchester where high premiums and competitive markets are par for the course.
The package of protections stems from The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which has altered the way landlords go about conducting their businesses.
Once unrestricted and a matter of negotiation, security deposits will now be limited to a maximum of one month’s rent (including those in single-family houses). In the past, landlords often asked for additional security to cover perceived credit or damage risks. Other changes include:
• Banning of “blacklists,” wherein landlords and leasing agents keep track and share records of tenants who may cause a nuisance — by damaging property, failure to pay rent, or for standing up for their tenants’ rights
• Limiting application fees and credit checks to $20
• Limiting late fees to $50 or 5% of monthly rent (whichever is less)
• Limiting of recovery of any attorney’s fees and legal costs, and granting tenants the ability to halt a landlord’s lawsuit by paying past due rent.
• Requiring security deposits be returned within 14 days of vacancy or be liable for double the amount
• Requiring landlords provide 90 days written notice of intent not to renew the lease, or for rent increases more than 5%
Beyond restricting landlords’ actions, the new legislation also implements new penalties: If a landlord illegally locks out or uses force to evict a renter (a.k.a. unlawful evictions) this would now be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 for each violation.
Many aspects of this new legislation will likely be challenged in court, however, for the time being Westchester renters will be wielding far more power at the negotiating table.