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Landlord-Tenant Law

There’s Bugs in My Bed! Who’s Gonna Pay?

September 27, 2010 by in Landlord Tips, Renter Tips
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Bed bugs. I challenge you to think of a topic more cringeworthy than tiny parasites that hitch a ride into your home from just about anywhere, so that they can then settle into the crevices of your mattress before proceeding to feast nightly on your very blood. Equally unnerving is the realization that once bedbugs have arrived, the only way to uninvite them is with costly, strong-handed methods. So, who gets stuck with the bill?

Generally speaking (the laws vary state to state), the responsibility for extermination will fall upon the property owner’s shoulders.  Unless a landlord has taken careful steps to protect themselves from this liability, landlords are legally obligated to provide pest control for their tenants in New York.

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Tenant Rights and Responsibilities in Rochester, NY

September 22, 2010 by in Free Resources, Renter Tips
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Whether you’re looking for your first apartment, or you’ve been renting for years, odds are you’re not aware of your rights and responsibilities as a renter.  Fortunately, our friends at the The Housing Council of Monroe County have compiled a document that renters can read online, or pick up at their offices at 75 College Ave, Suite 412.

Across Monroe County, roughly one third of all households are rental.  When you look at the city proper, 60% of Rochester’s 100,000 households are rentals.  For all those renters, the ‘Tenant Rights & Responsibilities‘ guide is a must have resource for making sure that you’re getting the most out of your renting experience.  In fact, there is even a hot-line you can call with your renting questions at 585-546-3700.

Here’s a few tips and resources from the guide:

  • For month-to-month contracts, under New York State Real Property Law 232-b, proper notice to terminate a lease is a one-month notice, corresponding to the rent due date.  No reason for terminating the agreement needs to be given by landlord or tenant.
  • All rental agreements, written or verbal, are binding once entered by a tenant and landlord.  There is no grace period to withdraw.  If you agree to rent an apartment and change your mind, the landlord can hold you liable for their losses, which can include losing your security deposit.
  • If severe code violations exist such as serious heating, plumbing or electrical problems, severe fire or health hazards or lack of basic services in the dwelling, a tenant can terminate their rental agreement even if there is a written lease.
  • Landlords can rent an apartment without appliances (stove and refrigerator) provided that they make it clear to the tenants applying for the apartment that they will have to furnish their own.  If landlords supply appliances, they have a duty to keep them in good working order.
  • Most landlord-tenant disputes over deposits arise over the issue of damages versus normal wear and tear.  A landlord can deduct from the deposit actual cost of damages including labor costs.  If a tenant leaves an apartment unclean the cost of cleaning can be deducted.
  • Landlords have a limited right of access to a tenant’s apartment.  The only exception to this is an emergency, during which, a landlord may enter randomly without notice.  In all other situations a landlord must work out a mutually agreeable time to enter, and provide at least a 24-hour heads up.
  • Any self-help eviction by a landlord without a court order is illegal.  Changing the locks, removing a tenant’s possessions, shutting off the utilities to force a tenant out etc. are criminal acts under New York State Real Property Law 235.
  • A landlord has no legal obligation to supply a tenant with off-street parking, storage space, use of a garage, use of yard and common areas, snow removal, garbage cans or garbage pickup.  If you live in a dwelling with two or fewer units a landlord can require you to perform basic outside maintenance such as cutting the grass.

Familiarizing yourself with your rights and responsibilities will make you a better tenant and save you a lot of aggravation and expense as a renter.  Since the majority of apartments in the Rochester, NY metro are owned by private individuals, renters should share this guide with their landlords to make sure they’re aware too.  Being a landlord is often a part  time job for the property owner, and it can be difficult for them to be on top of all the rights and rules.

Help us professionalize the Rochester rental market by forwarding this article to others who may need it.

How to Always Collect Your Late Rent Fees

September 15, 2010 by
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gavelIf you’re like most owners of rental property, you own a handful of units and work hard to keep the bills paid.  When a tenant starts slipping behind on their rent you take comfort in knowing that you can apply late rent fees to offset the deferred income.   Being the nice person that you are, you start letting the late payments slide as your tenant continues to struggle to pay rent.  You may think, “Well, at least they are managing to cover the base rent.  I guess it saves me going through an eviction… for now.”

As those late fees pile up unpaid, the joke is on you.  If it ever goes to court… as is often the case, the landlord is out of luck and those fees are generally waived.

The Secret:
Late fees are only enforceable if they are classified as ‘added rent’, which legally entitles you to collecting ‘late fees’ in the same way you are entitle to collect unpaid rent.  Smart landlords always account for this in their leases.

Unenforceable late fee lease clause:

If Tenant fails to pay the rent in full before the end of the 5th day after rent is due, Tenant will pay Landlord a late fee of $25. This fee is due with that month’s rent payment in full.

Enforceable late fee lease clause:

If Tenant fails to pay the rent in full before the end of the 5th day after rent is due, Tenant will pay Landlord, as additional rent, a late fee of $25. This additional rent is payable as rent, together with the next monthly rent due. Late charges, attorney’s fees and any expenses related to the enforcement of this lease shall be classified as “additional rent”.

Now you have the option of letting your enforceable late fees accrue, buying your renter some breathing room. You also have the option of taking past due charges out of the latest rent payment. If you go this route, you should inform the tenant of exactly how the rent was applied and what the balance now due is. As always, be sure to communicate this to your tenant in writing.

Regrettably necessary disclaimer: Newdigs is not in the business of giving legal advice, please consult your attorney for the real thing. We’re just here to get you thinking like a pro!