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Queens Landlord-Tenant Dispute Law Blog

What is tenant harassment?

Having a difficult tenant may make a landlord wish there was some way to encourage that tenant to move elsewhere. However, if the tenant believes the landlord is guilty of harassment, it could lead to legal issues. In fact, the tenant may file a claim of harassment in Housing Court. 

Here are actions the law considers to be tenant harassment in New York City.

New secondhand smoke laws for property owners and tenants

No property manager enjoys receiving complaints from an angry tenant against a neighboring tenant. Many complaints seem vindictive, frivolous or overblown; however, legitimate complaints about behaviors that violate lease agreements do occur.

Negotiable tenant complaints

Do landlords have to allow service animals?

Landlords have a right to decide whether tenants can have animals on the property. Some landlords can outright ban pets from the premises while other landlords can create conditions, such as how the pet cannot be a nuisance and put other tenants in danger. 

However, landlords have to allow individuals with disabilities to have service animals on the premises with them even if other tenants cannot have pets. According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot discriminate against people with disabilities, and not allowing someone to have an essential service animal is discrimination. It is vital for landlords to understand these rules, so they do not upset tenants and bring forth a lawsuit.

Why you may want to become a Section 8 landlord

As a New York landlord, you naturally want to maximize the amount of rent you receive for each of your houses or apartment units. You also want responsible tenants who will pay rent on time and not misuse or destroy your property. Have you ever considered becoming a Section 8 landlord? You may discover that this federally funded program gives you the best of both worlds.

If you are unfamiliar with Section 8, the first thing you should know is that Section 8 is the popular name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Basically, Section 8 allows you to rent your homes and apartments to low-income tenants at fair market value. The government pays the majority, if not all, of the tenants’ rent.

How easy is it to sublet your apartment?

In New York, the short answer to the above question is “not very.” Subleasing in our state is a reasonably complicated process and one which takes a fair amount of time. You cannot simply sublet to someone else on the spur of the moment and ask permission – or forgiveness – later.

In the first place, you must determine if you even have the legal right to sublet your apartment. You do if your apartment is in a building that is privately owned and contains four or more units. You have this legal right even if your lease says otherwise. You also have this legal right if you live in a rent stabilized apartment.

When can landlords enter apartments without permission?

There are many contentious issues landlords and tenants come up against. One that has taken the forefront in New York concerns whether security deposits for apartments are too high. 

Over the course of a lease, a landlord may need to enter the tenant's apartment. In general, landlords have to provide advanced warnings if they require access to the property. For example, if the landlord needs to schedule a non-emergency repair, then he or she should give the tenant about a week's notice. If the landlord needs to show the unit to prospective buyers, then the tenant should know about the viewing 24 hours in advance. However, there are times when permission is not necessary.

What can landlords do when evicting tenants who don't leave?

In the event your tenant has broken an agreement within the lease, you will have grounds for eviction but must follow detailed steps. You must first obtain a warrant from a court clerk. Once you have the warrant signed, you will be able to hire a constable, sheriff or marshal to visit the premises the evict the tenant to issue a notice to leave. Hiring one of these people will come with a fee. 

Even after you issue the notice, you may have to contend with a tenant who will still not leave the property. Not only is this frustrating, but it prevents you from showing potential new tenants the property. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the tenant's situation, you have several options available to you.

What are the most common types of lease breaches?

Whether you are a New York landlord or tenant, your lease is the legal document by which you protect your property as a landlord or occupy the leased premises as a tenant. A strong written lease sets forth what each party will do – and not do – during the lease term and is your best recourse if and when something goes wrong or a dispute arises.

When one of you fails to do what (s)he promised to do, or does something the lease prohibits, such action or inaction breaches the lease. Whether or not the breach is material, i.e., significant, depends on its nature and what, if any, damages it causes the other party. If you commit a material breach as a tenant, your landlord may be able to evict you and keep your security deposit. If you commit a material breach as a landlord, your tenant may be able to break the lease, move out ahead of time, reclaim his or her security deposit, and possibly sue you.

When to hire an attorney for your landlord-tenant dispute

Although many people rent properties without ever having a conflict with their landlords, the unfortunate truth is that landlord-tenant disputes are quite common. Sometimes disputes are relatively minor and a bit of negotiation between the parties can resolve matters. However, in more complicated or conflictual cases, a simple meeting may not suffice.

It can be difficult to know at exactly which point in a landlord-tenant dispute you should turn to an attorney for counsel and assistance in resolving your issue. Here are a few example cases that illustrate matters that can benefit from hiring an attorney who works with landlord and tenant disputes.

What if one of my tenants gets married?

When one of your tenants gets married, a few things could theoretically happen. The tenant might want to break the lease and move out. Or the tenant might move out but continue to pay rent until the lease ends.

On the other hand, the new couple might choose to live apart. More likely, the new spouse might move in. Does that mean you will have to approve the new occupant and put him or her on the lease? What if you do not want that person there?

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