Certainly, the plight of landlords has been in the news for the last few years, what with covid, etc. and there have been many discussions as to their rights and responsibilities. Most of the time landlords seem to get depicted as the “bad guys” and sometimes they are for sure. More times than not, however, landlords are given a bad rap and this is especially true when we have owner occupied buildings. So perhaps it is time to admit something. It is a two way street, and the tenant has some responsibilities and can be held accountable for them as they should. Here’s a quick review.
- Tenants must pay rent when it is due. This is the biggest piece of the puzzle. However, a failure to pay rent does NOT permit the landlord to withhold services (i.e water, heat, etc.) Many leases provide for late fees if the rent is not paid within 5 days of the due date. This is further limited by NY State that holds the threshold to the lesser of 5% or $50.
- Tenants must respect the rights of other tenants. In spite of the fact that the landlord cannot deny any tenant the right to what is referred to as their “quiet enjoyment” of the occupied premises, they still have to respect the rights of other tenants. Based on this, it is not unusual for proactive landlords to add lease provisions that prohibit noise bothersome to others especially during designated hours from 10PM and 8AM
- Tenants must notify the landlord of additional occupants. Pretty much self explanatory and I would think this would be common sense and courtesy on the tenants part. I literally just had a tenant ask me if it was OK for his niece to spend a few months in one of my units and of course I said yes. I thanked him for “telling” me. It also helped me avoid an unpleasant situation where perhaps I saw this person hanging around and I had to ask who they were so as to ensure safety for the other tenants.
- Tenants must not damage the property. Tenants can be held liable for damages that either they or their guests have caused. In theory, this is what security deposits are for, but sometimes the damage extends beyond the amount held and these matters tend to get litigated.
- Tenants must keep the apartment clean. You guessed it. This one is rarely enforced but it should be. The very first building I bought had hoarders living in the top flat and it caused all sorts of problems with rats and other vermin. It was a serious health concern for all who lived in the building. I had to purchase the building subject to the seller vacating the apartment. The stench was so overwhelming that I gutted the apartment down to the bricks and left the windows open to air it out for 6 weeks before I began the renovation.
- Tenants must provide the landlord with a duplicate key.
- Tenants must notify the landlord of needed repairs or unsafe conditions. These last 2, both 6 and 7, are all about ensuring that all the tenants in any given building have a safe place to live and in the event that repairs are needed, clearly the landlord needs access. So if you left the bathtub running, and your landlord cannot get in, even after reasonable notice, because YOU CHANGED THE LOCKS, you could be putting yourself and other tenants in a precarious position not to mention you could be increasing your liability.
- Tenants must give proper notice when they intend to leave and need to be out by the end of the lease term. This is also self explanatory. But understand that if you stay beyond the lease date, the landlord can and may be forced to start eviction proceedings forthwith
I would like to think that it will always work out for all parties concerned but sometimes it doesn’t and when that happens I am reminded of the classic line in the film, COOL HAND LUKE.
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
In very few cases, issues can usually get easily resolved when the lines of communication are open and the expectations are made clear up front.
“Hey, I wrote the book on Real Estate, literally.”
Author Brendan J. Cunningham is a New York Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, lead of the Platinum Team at HusVar Real Estate, as well as an accomplished writer, Shakespearean trained professional actor, and podcaster.
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