Lawmakers in New York and elsewhere are acting to preserve your health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers are also acting to preserve your economic rights, but this response is a bit slower.
New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris proposed the suspension, which has bipartisan support.
The proposal would also apply to mortgage payments.
“The devastation caused by coronavirus will be far-reaching and long-lasting,” he said.
“We must stay on top of the fast-changing consequences of our efforts to contain the virus, and the millions of tenants in our state cannot be left behind.
Suspending rents is a critically important step to help New Yorkers survive this unprecedentedly difficult time,” he added. Some landlords and law firms have voluntarily suspended eviction actions, at least temporarily.
The moratorium is expected to pass and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has already called for a rent suspension, is expected to sign it.
Basic Tenant Rights
The number of homeowners in the Big Apple has decreased since 2010.
So, the number of tenants has increased, to over five million. There is strength in numbers.
In many states, tenants have almost no rights. But in New York City, residential tenants have a number of important rights, including:
- Limited Security Deposit: Until recently, landlords could charge whatever security deposit they desired. Most landlords demanded the first and last months’ rent. But now, landlords can demand a maximum one months’ rent. And, they must refund security deposits, less deductions, within fourteen days.
- Rental History: This right is important if you live in a rent-controlled unit. If the landlord has been overcharging, you can recoup that money. If the overcharging has been going on for several years, that amount could be several thousand dollars.
- Tenant Association: As we said, there is strength in numbers. Landlords cannot retaliate in any way against residents who have any relationship to a tenant association. Additionally, landlords must allow these meetings in common areas.
- Rent Freeze: If you are over sixty-two or over eighteen and disabled, you might be entitled to a rent freeze. Your income must be less than $50,000 per year and you must spend at least a third of it on housing.
- Rent Increases: Even if your unit is not rent-controlled, landlords do not have an unlimited right to unilaterally raise rent. Landlords must provide at least thirty days’ notice if the increase will exceed 5 percent. Rent-control increases are usually capped at either 3.5 or 4.5 percent.
- Bedbugs: These pests are normally not dangerous, but these infestations are very unsettling and very hard to treat. Landlords have a duty to report infestations within the past twelve months. Landlords also have a duty to eradicate bedbugs and keep them from returning.
- Heat Seasons: Between October 1 and May 31, inside temperatures must be at least 62. Inside temps must be at least 68 when outside temps fall below 55. In terms of water, heat season is 24/7/365. Hot water must always be available, no ifs, ands, or buts.
- Health and Safety: According to the City Code, renters have a right to “safe, well maintained buildings that are free from pests, leaks and hazardous conditions.” Landlords typically have thirty or ninety days to remedy deficiencies, with the exception of aforementioned heat and hot water issues.
Coronavirus accommodations include the aforementioned eviction suspensions.
Additionally, according to an amendment to the City Code, “your landlord cannot discriminate against you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment because of fears and stigma around COVID-19, including discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, national origin, disability, or other protected classes.”
That’s a pretty broad prohibition.
Leaseholds and Premises Liability
Falls and dog bites are two of the most common premises liability injuries in New York apartments.
Landlords might be legally responsible for both of them.
Negligence cases usually begin with a legal duty. In terms of falls, New York law uses a common law classification system to determine duty, as follows:
- Invitee: If the victim had permission to be on the land and the victim’s presence benefited the owner, the owner had a duty of reasonable care. The permission could be direct or indirect, and the benefit could be economic or noneconomic (e.g. social interaction).
- Licensee: If the victim had permission but there was no benefit, the owner only had a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects. A guest of an apartment tenant is usually a licensee.
- Trespassers: If there was no permission and no benefit, there is no duty. This label does not apply very much in residential dwelling claims.
Victim/plaintiffs must also prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the landlord knew about the fall hazard.
Landlords could also be responsible for dog bite injuries.
Liability attaches if the landlord knew the attacking animal was on the premises and knew the animal was potentially dangerous.
Alternatively, victim/plaintiffs could show that the landlord had the right to evict the owner, but the landlord failed to take action.
During and after COVID-19, tenants have important rights. For a free consultation with an experienced New York personal injury attorney, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
We do not charge upfront legal fees.