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Important New York State Rental Documents for Landlords

Key Takeaways

  • Stay organized: having essential rental documents in one place is our number one tip to managing your properties with ease and efficiency.
  • For landlords managing properties in New York City, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board mandates rent increases to rent-stabilized properties. Rent-controlled apartments are controlled by the Maximum Base Rent (MBR).
  • Sometimes, a tenant can live in a commercial property like a hotel. Tenants must sign a lease agreement that includes rent prices and other important details. A commercial lease agreement is different from a tenant agreement.

Published on Aug 14, 2023 | Updated on Aug 14, 2023

A person looking at a computer screen and reviewing a New York residential lease agreement.

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Property management is no easy feat. From attracting quality tenants to understanding fair housing and local laws, New York landlords must plan for the highs and lows of residential property management.

For first-time landlords, we’ll break down the essential rental documents you’ll need, from the rental application form to a New York residential lease agreement. The primary purpose of these documents is to eliminate legal issues and screen applicants properly. Follow these guidelines to make the property management process efficient through each phase of the tenancy.

Overview of New York’s rental property guidelines

As a property manager, your goals are to maintain a good relationship with the property owner and keep quality tenants satisfied while navigating the ins and outs of property management.

Understanding the nuances between rent-stabilized and rent-control tenancies in apartments, sublets, lofts, and hotels is key. Being thorough, organized, and knowing the rules distinct to New York will foster a smooth-operating process and help landlords find ideal tenants who pay their monthly rent on time and are good neighbors.

Here are some important key points:

  • Renter protection: The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (HSTPA) of 2019 provides renter protection across the state.
  • Rent increase limits: The HSTPA 2019 affects how much a landlord can increase the rent on rent-stabilized units.
  • Rent stabilization: Beyond New York City, rent-stabilized apartments are buildings with six or more apartments built before January 1, 1974.
  • Annual rent increases: Select New York State counties set maximum rent increase rates annually, effective October 1 each year.
  • Grace period: New York State rent payments have a grace period of five days, meaning rent is only considered late if received more than five days after the due date.
  • Liability: Landlords are not exempt from liability if injuries occur on a rental property due to a landlord’s negligence.
  • Infestations: Before the tenant moves in, you’re responsible for removing infestations, including bed bugs. All landlords are obligated to notify the prospective tenants of bed bug infestation history. 

What do landlords need during the rental application process?

All prospective tenants must complete a rental application form. A landlord must also get consent from applicants before running credit reports or background checks.

The rental application form is necessary for approving applicants and typically includes an authorization for consent. 

A landlord will require consent from the tenant when requesting additional information regarding employment history, income, assets, and other pertinent information, including:

You can also ask the applicant to list previous landlord contact information on the rental application form. These are valuable references because a previous landlord can alert you to any unpaid rent issues or confirm the applicant was a good tenant.

Other personal details a landlord can request:

  • Full name, including previous names used in the last 10 years
  • Date of birth
  • Social security card (optional)
  • Driver’s license or a government-issued identification
  • Contact information, including a phone number, current address, or email address
  • Information for other potential tenants over the age of 18

Landlords can charge an application fee, but it legally can’t exceed $20, according to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.

The purpose of a holding deposit is so that the tenant can reserve a rental unit. The sum given to the landlord for the holding deposit should not exceed one month’s rent. 

Lease agreement, addendums, and inspections

Each property type requires both a signed rental contract that details the lease terms and a signed inspection form documenting the state of the rental in case property damage repairs are needed later. Have these essential documents in order before you approve an applicant.

Lease or rental agreements will define the agreed-upon terms between the landlord and tenant. Without a signed lease, there is no binding contract. A New York residential lease agreement is needed to protect the property manager from a negligent tenant.

A rental lease agreement should have language that specifies the amount needed for the security deposits, rent prices, pet deposit if applicable, lease term (start and end date), and the occupants’ names. Some landlords may even include a clause for the tenant to give notice before they prematurely vacate the rental.

If you’re renting an apartment with utilities included, the lease terms should also define these details. The rental agreement can help landlords mitigate future disputes that should arise, such as a tenant breaking a lease or being delinquent on rent.

Addendums are typically added mid-lease and can contain additional disclosures not included in the lease form, such as parking spaces, new pet deposits, or any details related to the entire space of the rental property.

Landlords are legally required to refund a security deposit when the lease ends and the tenant opts out of renewing it. In New York State, you must return the deposit within 14 days of the tenant moving out. For this reason, having documented inventory of any property damage will help landlords assess whether the tenant owes them money for damage not listed in the inspection form.

Before the move-out date, tenants and landlords will inspect the residential property together. This way, the landlord can allow the tenant to make repairs so that they receive their full security deposit.

If a landlord deducts money from the security fund, they must provide the tenant with an itemized receipt detailing the damage and cost. The maximum security deposit limit for rent-regulated apartments can be no more than one month’s rent.

Inspection forms can be used before the move-in date and the move-out date. You can also use the move-in inspection to point out where the fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide detector are and any property damage from previous tenancies. Download a template of a move-in/move-out inspection form.

There’s no limit to how much a landlord can raise rent for unregulated rentals on current tenants. If you decide to raise the rent on a tenant, give them advance written notice before increasing the rent. Property managers can include the information on the rent increase form coupled with the renewal lease. 

Regulated rental contracts, such as rent-stabilized units, operate under the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. Rent-controlled units operate under New York State policies.

The exception to the rent increase rule for rent-controlled units is that there needs to be enough rental income to cover maintenance and property improvements. Landlords can increase the rent within reason to cover those costs by applying to the Maximum Base Rent (MBR) program.

Give advance notice using this form when visiting the rental unit or property. If the tenant reports an issue that needs to be addressed, alert the tenant in advance of the date and time the repairs will be made.

Tips for first-time landlords and property managers

Familiarize yourself with New York’s state and local laws. Many landlord-tenant laws protect tenants from discrimination, guaranteeing everyone has equal housing opportunities. Guided by these laws, property managers can avoid legal action.

Stay organized. Having documents ready for any circumstance will streamline the procedures. When you need to fill a vacancy, start learning the details about the rental. For instance, what’s included in the rent? Virtually all New York City apartments supply heat and water for free, so there are no utility payments from the tenant for these services. Some NYC listings even specify that electricity is included with rent.

Once you have posted your rental listing, begin screening potential renters who submit their applications for the rental unit. Landlords can learn how reliable a prospective renter will be by conducting an in-depth screening of their credit reports, income source verification, and other pertinent information.

The tenant screening and rental application process

Every landlord has different criteria for their tenant based on the property they’re renting out. The 40 times rent rule is commonly practiced by some landlords. If an applicant’s annual income is 40 times the monthly rent, it assures landlords they can afford it. The one common denominator for each property management company is finding someone who can reliably make their monthly rent payments. 

With SingleKey, you can identify the top candidates through a comprehensive tenant screening process that includes:

  • Equifax credit check
  • Background check
  • Social media scan
  • Court record search
  • Rental history
  • Income and employment verification

A credit and background check will reveal bad credit or healthy credit history. It will also disclose any criminal history. Property managers will not have access to tax returns. The IRS does not report tax debt to consumer credit bureaus, according to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Questions landlords can ask during the screening process

Advertising your rental and speaking with people over the phone or in person comes with the territory of being a landlord. Being cordial and personable can help the applicant feel at ease while answering questions.

When you ask an applicant valid questions, you’re evaluating if they will be a right fit. Here are some helpful questions you can ask during pre-screening:

  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you own a vehicle?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Have you declared bankruptcy in the past?
  • Do you smoke?

Asking open-ended questions is also an effective way to learn more about a person. Keep in mind though that due to the federal Fair Housing Act, housing providers may not discriminate against applicants. Asking questions about a prospective tenant’s race, marital status, nationality, religion, or sex should be avoided.

End of tenancy

For those renting to tenants with a month-to-month lease, use a notice to terminate the tenancy form to end the tenancy.

New York State is known for having many tenant protections on housing. Here are some examples of when a landlord can opt to evict after giving proper notice: 

  • When a tenant owes rent money
  • When a tenant is delinquent
  • When a tenant or guest deliberately destroys property
  • When a tenant is a nuisance 

The property owner will need to undergo a court proceeding and obtain a judgment of possession from the court. The landlord usually will not deliver or send an eviction notice. A sheriff or marshal will carry out a court-ordered eviction. 

FAQ: Important documents every landlord in New York State should know

A professional tenant screening report will help landlords gain valuable information about their tenants, such as if they have a criminal history and or if they have bad credit.

Screening tenants before drafting apartment leases is essential to ensure you rent to responsible people. In addition to tenant screening, get organized and gather all the pertinent rental documents you’ll need, from rental applications to the end-of-tenancy and inspection forms.

Landlords should also enroll in a landlord insurance policy to protect their property and themselves in case of an injury. Some landlords request applicants who earn an income through freelancing to submit a CPA letter. An accountant will assess a prospective tenant’s income sources, and a landlord will decide whether they will rent to the applicant.

A New York City landlord is required to provide heat and hot water. However, air conditioning is not mandated. Many NYC apartments do not have air conditioners. The lease terms should outline what the tenant owes the landlord, including rent and a security deposit. The terms should also specify which utilities the landlord or the commercial property building covers.

Landlords in New York are required to disclose details regarding pre-existing damages to the property or anything relevant to the rental history. For instance, the landlord must notify the prospective tenant if the rental has a bed bug infestation history. This information can also be stated in the apartment lease. Landlords should always give prospective tenants advance notice of move-in inspections to be conducted before the tenant occupies the unit.

Our final thoughts

When it comes to being a landlord, you want to attract renters who will respect your property and pay rent on time. Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself in a situation where a tenant is continuously late on rent or has violated their lease terms. Learn more about the risks of renting and key strategies to reduce those risks.

This blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is subject to change. It is not intended as legal advice. Consult your local laws and seek professional legal counsel before making any decision or taking any action based on this post.

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