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Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights

Barrie Gewanter
Executive Director

Bridget Owens
Human Rights Specialist

John H. Mulroy Civic Center,
Suite 19 - Basement Level
421 Montgomery Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

(315) 435-3565

 

Free Call from Inmates at Jail or Jamesville: (315) 435-3567 

 

Renting

A Guide to Landlord/Tenant Relations

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This information is available as a pamphlet from the Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights' office. This pamphlet was not written by lawyers. It contains information of a general nature and is meant only as a guide. The actual laws are much more detailed than presented here. The Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights advises that you consult a lawyer regarding your specific situation.
Click on the link below for more information -

Discrimination Repairs
Security Deposits Heat
Leases Tenant's Organizations
Rent Receipts Evictions
Number of Occupants Sublets
Publicly Assisted Housing Housing Complaints
Privacy and Safety Other Pamphlets
Rasing Rent  
Discrimination

CAN A LANDLORD DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ME?
Landlords may not discriminate

  • Because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status (NYS Executive Law 296.5) or religion or familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18) (Federal Housing Act)
  • In Syracuse, based on sexual or affectional preference or orientation. (Fair Practices Law, Art. IV 5)
  • Against people in alternative or non-traditional family relationships. (Braschi V. Stahl Associates Co.)
  • Against tenants with children including pregnant women. (Real Property Law 236 and Federal Fair Housing Act).

Landlords may not ask questions about race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status, religion or familial status and in Syracuse about sexual or affectional preference or orientation.
Landlords may make rental decisions based on

  • People's financial situation
  • Someone is or has been a threat to the health and safety of others.
  • Someone who is currently using illegal drugs (Fair Housing Act)

ARE THERE SOME RENTAL SITUATIONS WHERE THE LAWS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION DO NOT APPLY?

  • A building which has only two rental units and the owner or a member of his/her family lives in one.
  • A rooming house. It can be limited to one gender. A person renting out rooms in his/her own house or apartment. A building for older people. It can be limited to those age 55 and above. (NYS Executive Law 296.5 (a)

WHAT REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS CAN A PERSON WITH DISABILITIES EXPECT FROM A LANDLORD?

  • Adapt rules, policies and services.
  • Allow persons with disabilities to make reasonable physical changes in the apartment if that person will:
    Pay for the changes. Return the interior of the apartment to its original condition if this is a reasonable expectation.

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Security deposits


HOW CAN I PREVENT BEING CHARGED FOR DAMAGES DONE BY PREVIOUS TENANTS?

Write out a Conditions Report that:

  • Is written by the tenant
  • Is written before the tenant pays the security deposit
  • Is a detailed list of the problems and defects of the new apartment.
  • Is signed and dated by both the tenant and the landlord. Both get copies.


SHOULD I GET A RECEIPT FOR MY SECURITY DEPOSIT?

  • Always get a receipt.
  • The receipt should state the money is a security deposit.
  • Keep the receipt in a safe place so when you move out, you have proof of the amount you paid.


WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MY SECURITY DEPOSIT?

  • To keep the apartment from being rented to someone else before you move in.
  • To reimburse the landlord for reasonable costs of repairs from damages by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear.
  • As you move out, the landlord may take reimbursement for any unpaid rent. (General Obligations Law Article 7).


WHEN DO I GET BACK MY SECURITY DEPOSIT?

  • The security deposit remains the property of the tenant unless the tenant does not fulfill his/her responsibilities under the lease.
  • The tenant is entitled to get back the security deposit when the lease expires.
  • In Syracuse the landlord must return the security deposity within two weeks of the end of the rental agreement (Syracuse Housing Code 27-124(2)).


DO I GET ANY INTEREST ON MY SECURITY DEPOSIT?

  • Landlords of buildings of six or more apartments must put tenants' deposits into interest producing New York bank acounts.
  • Inform the tenants in writing of the bank's name and address and amount of deposit.
  • Tenants must receive the going rate of interest on their deposits minus 1% for administrative costs.
  • Tenants can request the interest to be given to them annually, applied to the rent, or paid at the end of the lease.
          The security deposit may never be combined with anyone else's money.

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Leases


WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LEASES?

  • Tenants are entitled to a copy.
  • The rent cannot be raised during the time period of the lease unless the lease says otherwise.
  • Tenants cannot be asked to leave unless they break the rules.
  • Tenants have a legal obligation to pay the rent during the whole period of the lease even if the tenant moves or loses his/her job.
  • Tenants may sublet or get the landlord's agreement to break the lease.


IF MY NAME IS THE ONLY ONE ON THE LEASE, MAY I SHARE THE APARTMENT WITH ANYONE OTHER THAN MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY? Yes. You may share the apartment with:

  • One additional occupant
  • That occupant's dependent children


WHEN MORE THAN ONE TENANT IS NAMED ON THE LEASE, WITH WHOM CAN THEY SHARE THE APARTMENT?

  • The tenant can share the apartment with immediate families.
  • If one tenant moves out, another occupant may move in with his/her dependent children
  • The tenant must give the new name to the landlord within 30 days
          Of when the occupant moves in or
          Of when the landlord requests it.
  • At least one tenant named on the lease or his/her spouse must occupy the apartment as a primary residence.
  • If the tenant moves out, so that no name on the lease is living in the apartment, the remaining occupant cannot stay unless the landlord agrees.
  • The landlord may limit the number of people in the apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards (Real Property Law 235).


HOW MUCH NOTICE MUST I GIVE TO MOVE OUT OF MY APARTMENT IF I DON'T HAVE A LEASE?


A tenant must give one month's notice before moving out.
If a tenant gives shorter notice, he/she will have to pay the next month's rent.
For example, to move out by July 1, the tenant must notify the landlord by May 31.

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Rent Receipts

SHOULD I ALWAYS GET A RENT RECEIPT?
Rent receipts must

  • Always be provided when paying with anything other than a personal check.
  • Include payment date, amount, rental period paid for, apartment number, signature of person receiving the money and his/her title (Real Property Law 235-e).

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Number of Occupants

CAN LANDLORDS RENT ONLY TO SMALLER FAMILIES AND NOT LARGER ONES?

  • Reasonable occupancy standards are legal if they are universally applied. For instance, if a landlord decided to rent to families with no more than 5 people, the landlord:
  • Could ask the number of people in the household but not the number of children.
  • Could not raise the rent if the household has four people and a fifth one joins.
  • Could not determine in which rooms people could sleep regardless of age and/or sex of family members.


IF MY NAME IS THE ONLY ONE ON THE LEASE, MAY I SHARE THE APARTMENT WITH ANYONE OTHER THAN MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY?

  • Yes. You may share the apartment with
  • One additional occupant
  • That occupant's dependent children


WHEN MORE THAN ONE TENANT IS NAMED ON THE LEASE, WITH WHOM CAN THEY SHARE THE APARTMENT?

  • The tenants can share the apartment with immediate families
  • If one tenant moves out, another occupant may move in with his/her dependent children.
  • The tenant must give the new name to the landlord within 30 days
          Of the occupant moving in
          Of the landlord requesting it
  • At least one tenant named on the lease or his/her spouse must occupy the apartment as a primary residence.
  • If tenant moves out, so that no name on the lease is living in the apartment, the remaining occupant cannot stay unless the landlord agrees.
  • The landlord may limit the number of people in the apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. (Real Property Law 235)

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Publicly Assisted Housing

WHAT IS PUBLICLY ASSISTED HOUSING?

  • Section 8 Rental Assistance Program, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), United States Government:
          Pays partial rent for low income families
          Gives preference to families:
                  Displaced through no fault of their own
                  Living in substandard housing
                  Paying over 50% of their income for rent and utilities
  • Federally Assisted Public Housing Programs for low income persons:
          The wait for an apartment may be long and depends upon apartment location and family need and size.
          The leases may differ from NYS law.


WHAT DOES A LANDLORD WHO ACCEPTS SECTION 8 TENANTS HAVE TO DO?

  • Have the rental building in compliance with federal standards
  • Accept federal rules regarding rental prices, security deposits, rent increases, etc.


WHERE DO I APPLY FOR SECTION 8 OR LOW INCOME HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS?

  • Syracuse Housing Authority (475-6181) 516 Burt Street, Syracuse, NY 13202, for people renting in Syracuse.
  • Section 8 Office (475-6181) Syracuse Housing Authority, 300 Burt Street, Syracuse, NY 13202, for Syracuse residents.
  • North Syracuse Housing Authority (458-7077) 201 South Main Street, North Syracuse, for renters in North Syracuse.
  • Christopher Community (424-1822) 1654 West Onondaga Street, Syracuse, for people renting in all other parts of Onondaga County.
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Privacy and Safety


WHAT ARE MY PRIVACY RIGHTS AS A TENANT?

  • Tenants have a right to privacy in their apartments.
  • The landlord may enter the tenant's apartment at a reasonable time and with prior notice in order to
          Make repairs
          Show the apartment to prospective renters and buyers
          Do other activities mentioned in the lease
  • In emergencies the landlord may enter the tenant's apartment without the tenant's consent (example: fire, burst pipes)


CAN I CHANGE LOCKS OR PUT A CHAIN ON MY APARTMENT DOOR?

  • A tenant can put a chain on the door.
  • Tenants of multiple dwelling complexes can install their own locks
          With the landlord's permission
          The landlord is entitled to a key (Multiple Dwelling Law 51-C)


DO I HAVE TO LIVE IN A DUMP?

  • Tenants have the right to a liveable, safe, sanitary apartment (Real Property Law 235-b).  

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Raising Rent

CAN THE LANDLORD RAISE MY RENT AT ANY TIME? I DON'T HAVE A LEASE.

  • The landlord cannot raise rent without the tenant's agreement.
    If the tenant disagrees, the landlord can ask the tenant to leave giving the tenant one month's notice.


WHAT IF SOMEONE ELSE JOINS MY HOUSEHOLD?

  • If the landlord decides to rent to families with no more than 5 people, for instance, and the household with only four people adds another person, the landlord could not raise the rent.


CAN THE LANDLORD RAISE THE RENT EVEN THOUGH I HAVE A LEASE?

  • The rent cannot be raised during the time period of the lease unless the lease says otherwise.  
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Repairs

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE APARTMENT NEEDS REPAIRS?

  • If the apartment needs repairs
            Tell the landlord
            Ask by what date the repairs will be completed
  • In emergencies, tenants can:
            Make necessary repairs
            Deduct reasonable repair costs from rent
            Keep all receipts to verify expenses


WHAT ELSE CAN I DO IF THE LANDLORD DOESN'T MAKE REPAIRS?

  • Housing inspectors are the legal enforcers of housing codes, which are the legal standards for decent, safe housing.
  • Phone the housing inspectors when your landlord has not made repairs in a timely fashion.
  • To make an appointment to have your apartment inspected:
            In Syracuse, phone 448-8695
            Outside Syracuse in the blue pages in the phone book
            Look under your town or village for a building inspector or
            Call the Town Clerk for the right phone number
  • After the inspection, ask for a copy of the report
  • A copy of the City of Syracuse Housing Code is available at 201 East Washington Street
  • Landlords may not harass or penalize tenants for making good faith complaints to a government agency (Real Property Law 223-b).


MAY I WITHHOLD MY RENT IF THE LANDLORD ISN'T MAKING REPAIRS?

  • Withholding rent
  • May force your landlord to make repairs
  • May cause your landlord to evict you for non-payment of rent
  • May result in your countersuing your landlord for "Breach of warranty of habitability," that is, for breaking a guarantee of providing a liveable, safe, sanitary apartment .
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Heat

DURING WHICH MONTHS DOES A LANDLORD HAVE TO PROVIDE HEAT?

  • In New York State from October 1 to May 31
  • Heat must be at least 68 F
          From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
          If the outdoor temperature is below 55 F (Multiple Dwelling Law 79).
  • In Syracuse heat must be at least 70 F and must be provided Between September 15 to June 15
  • When the outdoor temperature is below 55 F (Syracuse Housing Code 27-44 (a) (2)). Phone your village or town government for other local heat standards.
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Tenants' Organizations

CAN WE FORM A TENANTS' ORGANIZATION?

  • Tenants have a right to organize.
  • Tenants can meet in common areas like halls and lobbies.
  • Landlords may not harass or penalize tenants who organize (Real Property Law 230 and 223).
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Evictions
  • Yes, but only with a court order served by the city marshal, sheriff or constable. Otherwise, phone the police.
  • Once court papers ordering you to vacate have been served, your landlord can:
            Remove your possessions
            Lock you out of your apartment
            Turn off your utilities

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A LANDLORD EVICTS A TENANT?

  • To evict a tenant the landlord must sue the tenant in court and win.
  • The tenant must be notified in writing of the date, time and place of the court case.
  • If the tenant doesn't appear in court, the tenant will probably lose the case.
  • The tenant should take to court any proof or witnesses to verify the tenant's side of the conflict.
  • Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can evict a tenant and only with a court order (RPAPL 749).

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO MOVE OUT OF THE APARTMENT IF I LOSE MY EVICTION CASE?

  • The time between the court date and being evicted
  • Is at least 72 hours
  • May be longer if you tell the judge why you can't be out in 72 hours
  • Cannot be changed once the city marshal, sheriff or constable is at your door unless the landlord agrees to extend the time
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Sublets

MAY I SUBLET MY APARTMENT?

  • You may sublet if you live in a building with 4 or more apartments if you get your landlord's permission in advance:
  • The original tenant is still responsible for the rent and apartment.
  • If the landlord denies letting you sublet on reasonable grounds:
            You may not sublet
            A court must decide if the grounds are reasonable.
  • For subletting procedures, phone the NYS Attorney General's office (315) 448-4848. Ask for the booklet, "Residential Landlord and Tenant Guide."
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Housing Complaints

  WHERE CAN I GO FOR HELP WITH HOUSING PROBLEMS?

  • Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights , (315) 435-3565

  • Frank A. Hiscock Legal Aid Society , (315) 422-8191
     Eviction Court Clinic: Represents indigent persons and families facing eviction, illegal lock-   out, and other housing emergency situations from privately-owned property in the City of Syracuse (not government subsidized).

  • Legal Services of Central New York , Inc., (315) 475-3127
    All landlord/tenant complaints including evictions if:
    Renting in Onondaga County outside city limits
    Living in governmental subsidized housing

  • CNY Fair Housing - (315) 471-0420
    or make a complaint online at www.cnyfairhousing.org

  • NYS Attorney General's Office , (315) 448-4848
    Discrimination against tenants with children

  • Urban League of Onondaga County, Inc. , (315) 472-6955

  • Association for Better Living , (315) 498-4249

  • NYS Division of Human Rights , (315) 428-4633
    Legal enforcement of the NYS Human Rights Law

  • U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) , 1-800-424-8590
    TDD phone for hearing impaired, 1-800-543-8294
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Other Pamphlets
  • WHERE CAN I READ MORE ON TENANTS' RIGHTS?
     
    "Tenant's Rights: A Handbook for Syracuse Tenants"
            Hiscock Legal Aid Society (315) 422-8191;
            NEHDA (315) 425-1032;
            Urban League (315) 472-6955;
            SUN (315) 476-7475;
            Spanish Action League (315) 475-6153;
            Legal Services of CNY (315) 475-3127 and other locations
  • "Residential Landlord and Tenant Guide" (27 pp.) and "Mobile Home Tenants' Handbook," (21 pp.)
            NYS Attorney General (315) 448-4848, 615 Erie Blvd. West, Syracuse, NY 13202
  • "Fair Housing: It's Your Right,"
            U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, 1-800-669-9777
  • "City of Syracuse Housing Code," (39 pp.)
            (315) 448-8695, 201 E. Washington Street, 3rd Floor, Syracuse, NY 13202.

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