One of the topics that people frequently call us about is their rights as a tenant. What can a landlord legally do to them? Can they be evicted for not paying their rent, when something in the apartment needs fixing? What happens if the utilities don’t work? These are the types of questions we answer on a weekly basis here at Passalacqua & Associates, but let me give you a brief overview here.
First and foremost, tenants have rights. If you are faced with legal action brought by your landlord, knowing what those rights are becomes vitally important. Your gut reaction may be to just move out and avoid the hassle. Sometimes that is the best course of action, but you will never know that unless you know what your rights and responsibilities as a tenant are.
“What are my rights? And how do I know if my landlord is trying to put one over on me and violate the lease I signed? Excellent question! Here is what you need to know about the New York State Landlord Tenant Law.
- When I moved out, I asked my landlord for my security deposit back and he told me it was used for repairs to the common area of the building. Can he do that?
No! Under New York State Law a security deposit is still technically the tenant’s money.
The standard security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent. A landlord can use that money to pay for damages done to your apartment or for the last month’s rent. A security deposit is not to be used for routine maintenance in your apartment or around the building in which you live. That money is to be held as a deposit and held in a separate bank account that is not to be touched during the pendency of your lease. The landlord is also required to provide a receipt of the deposit which details the name and address of the banking institution where he placed it as well as the amount of the deposit.
After a lease is up and upon vacating the premises, a tenant is entitled to get the security deposit back with interest. In New York, the window for returning a security deposit is typically 21-45 days of a tenant vacating a property. A landlord is obligated to return the security deposit regardless of whether or not the tenant specifically requests it.
- My landlord threatened to cut off my utilities because I complained about some needed repairs in the apartment. Can he do that?
No. It is illegal for a landlord to cut off utilities.
As part of NY state law, landlords are required to provide a safe and livable environment for their tenants. In addition to the proper security measures, the provision of utilities falls under this category of “safe” and “livable.” Unless a specific court order spells it out, know that your landlord cannot just decide to cut off your electricity, water, or heat.
If your landlord cuts off your utilities or fails to provide them in the proper conditions, he is not fulfilling his duty and responsibility as a landlord and you can withhold your rent payments until such time that he complies.
- Can my landlord raise my rent without telling me?
Maybe, depends on how he does it.
If you are a tenant with a year-long lease, a landlord cannot raise your rent while that lease is in effect. However, once that lease is expired, there is nothing that says the landlord cannot raise your rent for the next lease period. If you have a month-to-month lease, the landlord can give 30 days notice of a rent increase, because technically the lease expires at the end of each month. The lease automatically renews unless the landlord gives a one (1) tenancy period notice of a change or termination of the lease.
- My landlord keeps threatening to evict me. Does he have legal right to do that?
No. It is illegal for a landlord to simply evict a tenant.
In order for a landlord to evict a tenant, there must be a legal cause for the eviction. First, he must provide the tenant with notice of a breach of the alleged of the lease. Then the landlord must file a Summary Proceeding with the local municipal court to have a judge sign a Warrant of Eviction. However, before a judge will do that, the landlord must prove that the reason for the eviction is a legally sufficient one, i.e there was a material breach of the lease, the tenant has created a public nuisance, the tenant has failed to pay rent.
A landlord CAN NEVER engage in self-help, that is when the landlord decides to evict the tenant on his or her own. They cannot change the locks on a tenant or take the tenant’s property and throw it out into the street. There are strict and harsh penalties for actions such as these and any landlord who engages in such practice will surely regret it after the judge hears about what they did.
- Is it possible to withhold rent because the landlord is not fixing things I asked him to fix?
Yes. A tenant may withhold rent from the landlord under certain conditions.
As stated above, a landlord has a duty to provide his tenants with a habitable, safe, and sanitary place to live. That does not mean that a tenant can withhold rent if his mailbox door does not shut properly, or if the faucet in the bathroom leaks. The defect must be substantial and cause the apartment or residence to not be safe to live in. Examples would be no running water or working heat. If the residence was structurally unsound or condemned would be other reasons to withhold rent payments. Also included in this would be the security of the building if you live in an apartment complex.
In order to properly withhold rental payments, the tenant must advise the landlord of the defect, preferably in writing, and the landlord refuses to remedy the problem.
If the landlord takes no action to fix a problem, you may best be served by getting the problem fixed yourself and then deducting the amount paid to fix the problem from your next rent check, but you have to give him a chance to make the repairs himself first before you take this route.
- Is my landlord allowed to come into my apartment anytime he wants without knocking?
Actually, no. A landlord cannot enter a tenant’s property without proper notice.
Most residential leases state when and how a landlord is to notify a tenant when they want to enter their apartment. A landlord should provide ample notice to the tenant and a reason for wanting to enter the apartment. That reason could be any valid reason, such as to check on the condition of the property or to assess a problem with plumbing or electrical from an adjacent apartment.
The only time they can enter without notice is in the case of an emergency. Entering your apartment outside of these circumstances means your landlord is violating the lease and should cease that type of activity.
If you retain us to represent your interests as a tenant or a landlord, it then becomes our job to help you preserve your rights. Here at Passalacqua and Associates, we realize each of our clients are different and have different needs, but each client receives the attention they deserve when their rights are being protected. We will investigate your case and come up with a strategy that will put you in the best position to move on with your life. To discuss your case in more detail, please call us at 315-500-NICK (6425) or contact us through our online chat at www.CNYTRIALLAW.com
New York is a “No-Fault” insurance state, which means that insureds are generally reimbursed by their insurance company for damages regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident. Insureds can be reimbursed for medical costs, lost wages and other losses that might surface after the accident.
The State of New York has done this to ensure that no one gets left out in the cold if they are in an accident with someone who does not have adequate, or any insurance at all. No-Fault insurance coverage, in most cases, will reimburse you up to $50,000 for accident related medical treatment, up to 80% of your lost wages (with a $2,000 a month maximum) and any accident related services that you need such as home help.
The State of New York also requires registered motor vehicles to have liability insurance with certain minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000/$50,000 for bodily injury per person/ per incident
- $50,000/ $100,000 for death
- $10,000 for property damage per accident
What are the No Fault Benefits you are entitled to?
These are benefits paid by the insurance company of the car you were driving, were a passenger in or were struck by as a pedestrian, regardless of fault as to the cause of the accident. This means that the accident could have been your fault, someone else’s fault or no one’s fault at all. These benefits include payment of medical bills, prescription drugs, lost wages, housekeeping and/or transportation to and from medical providers, all as the result of the accident.
In order to claim these benefits, there are rules that are dictated by your insurance policy as to when you place them on notice of the accident and that you fill out an application to apply for the benefits. There is a very short time, only 30 days from the date of the accident, in order to file an application for these benefits. However, this time limit can be extended under extenuating circumstances. In order to make sure that you abide by all of the insurance companies requirements, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney after your accident to ensure that all of your rights are protected.
Here at Passalacqua and Associates, we realize each of our clients are different and have different needs, but each client receives the attention they deserve when their rights are being protected. We will investigate your case and come up with a strategy that will put you in the best position to get your life back in order after a debilitating injury. Our attorneys and staff have the experience that is needed to find the people responsible for your accident and hold them accountable. To discuss your case in more detail, please call us at 315-500-NICK (6425) or contact us through our online chat at www.CNYTRIALLAW.com
Everyone knows that the winters in Upstate New York can be treacherous for both driving and walking. When you slip and fall on ice, the injuries can be very serious and threaten your ability to earn a living and enjoy your life. If you are one of the truly unlucky, it will involve possible surgery and having to miss work for an extended period of time. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury from a slip and fall on ice due to someone else’s negligence, you need to find an attorney who specializes in premises liability to protect your rights. Someone with experience. Someone who can evaluate your case and your injuries, so as to advise you on what your best course of action is so you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
If a property owner or business doesn’t maintain their premises properly, there can be a build up of snow and ice, which creates an hazardous condition that increases the risk for a slip, trip or fall due to that hazardous condition. In numerous municipalities in New York State, both the city and individual landowners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice. If the property owner doesn’t clear the snow and ice away from their sidewalk, it becomes increasingly more difficult for a person trying to get where they are going while passing by or through their property. To take it a step further, the property owner must undertake a “reasonable” effort to clear the property. The act of just throwing some salt down on an unshoveled sidewalk is clearly not “reasonable”. They must make sure that the walking surface is free and clear of snow and ice and is a safe surface for the person attempting to cross. There are numerous municipalities in New York that set very specific time frames for landowners to clean their walkways following the end of any type of winter storm, including snow, sleet, freezing rain, etc.
In order to prove negligence on the part of a landowner who did not properly maintain their sidewalk, your attorney must prove that the landowner did not take “reasonable” care to clear the sidewalk. Some may ask, “what is reasonable care?” Reasonable care is the level of care that a prudent person would use in the same or similar circumstances. An example would be that after a snow storm, a business owner would send an employee out to shovel the walkway into the store so it is free of snow and then put rock salt down to ensure there is no ice that accumulated under the snow. This is done so a slip free walking surface has been achieved.
What do we have to show to prove the landowner or business was negligent? We will have to prove the landowner or business owed a duty to you to exercise reasonable care. That they breached that duty by not maintaining their sidewalks. That there was actual or constructive notice to the landowner or business that the hazardous condition existed. That the injuries you sustained were caused directly and proximately caused by the landowner’s or business’ breach of the duty owed to you.
If you were to slip and fall on someone else’s property there are a few things you can do to ensure you preserve the evidence needed to prove your case. You should report the accident immediately to the landowner or business. You should take your own photographs of the hazardous condition, as the weather changes rapidly and that same patch of ice may not be there the next day. You should have the person to whom you reported the incident fill out an accident report. Having these things will ensure that vital information is preserved and it can be used to help prove your case.
Once we are able to prove all of the elements of your case, it then becomes our job to help you receive the most compensation possible. In most cases we are able to recover the costs of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and any other related expenses that have been incurred because of your injury. Here at Passalacqua and Associates, we realize each of our clients are different and have different needs, but each client receives the attention they deserve when their rights are being protected. We will investigate your case and come up with a strategy that will put you in the best position to get your life back in order after a debilitating injury. Our attorneys and staff have the experience that is needed to find the people responsible for your accident and hold them accountable.
To discuss your case in more detail, please call us at 315-500-NICK (6425) or contact us through our online chat at www.CNYTRIALLAW.com