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Attorney Anthony A. Nozzolillo Esq. takes on the Tumultuous Residential Landlord/Tenant Relationship in New York State

See what legal advice Nozzolillo has for both Landlords and Tenants


Often, most contractual agreements between two parties will come to a head at one point or another. Nothing is more indicative of this than a Landlord/Tenant relationship.

New York State has recently been riddled with scenarios where Tenants have not only been able to go unscathed for not remitting rental payment to the Landlord—but, to the contrary—the Landlords have been subjected to criminal liability for trying to enforce their rights against those who occupy their units either unlawfully or without paying.

Attorneys like Anthony A. Nozzolillo Esq. in New York and across the country are now working with Landlord and Tenants alike now more than ever to reiterate what their rights are.

What does the agreement mean?

In New York State, where residential property is concerned, whenever someone enters a Landlord/Tenant relationship, that means that the Landlord, who owns the premises, concedes to the Tenant’s occupancy and possession of the premises.

The Tenant then remits a monthly rent to the Landlord whereby the Landlord must assure that the Tenant is afforded rights to “quiet use and enjoyment” of the premises. In addition, there exists the statutory “Warranty of Habitability“ where the Landlord must ensure that all plumbing, heating, ventilation, air condition, mechanical systems and the like are always operational and functional during the tenancy.

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These mutually existing terms are often memorialized in a formal writing, or “Lease Agreement”. Other times, there is no written agreement whereby the Tenant is deemed to be a “month to month” Tenant. In this type of agreement, the Tenant must pay rent every 30 days and the Landlord is expected to maintain the Warranty of Habitability even without a written agreement. The Landlord must also provide 30 days’ notice to the Tenant to terminate the lease agreement.

Most New York State residential leases start out as written lease agreements but are never formally renewed, essentially morphing into a month-to-month tenancy. This means the 30-day time frames will dictate the Tenant's rental payment and Landlord’s Termination notice, and prior arrangements from the initial written lease will still carry over.

“All is well and fine—but what happens when a Tenant stops paying rent? What recourse does the Landlord have? What happens if a Landlord ceases to comply with his or her responsibilities or obligations to the Tenant?” Nozzolillo raised. “The answer is—it depends.”

Rights and actions for Landlords

As far as the Landlord’s rights, focus needs to be given on how the Tenant has breached the lease arrangement. The Landlord should decide if they wish to have the Tenant removed from the home and, if the Tenant becomes current on all rental payments, if they are able to remain in the premises as a perpetual Tenant.

Most often, Landlords should seek the legal advice of an attorney as soon as a Tenant becomes delinquent on rental payments for no justifiable reason. For “Non-Payment”, a 14 day notice should be served to the Tenant. The notice should advise the Tenant if the payments are not made in 14 days, or if the premises is not vacated if the payments cannot be made, the Landlord will start a formal “Non-Payment Proceeding” to seek to have the rent made current and Tenant evicted.

As previously relayed, if the Tenant remits the rental arrears, then the Tenant can remain and the Landlord/Tenant relationship is preserved.

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The other situation would be if the Landlord decides to not renew the existing lease agreement with the existing Tenant, provides the Tenant with the requisite notice to not renew the lease, and the Tenant remains in the unit.

In this situation, a Landlord is not seeking payment of rent, but rather seeking to evict the Tenant in a Holdover Proceeding; meaning the Tenant is “holding over” possession after the Landlord has expressed not continuing with the lease agreement/arrangement. How long the Tenant has been renting will determine the requisite notice to surrender possession.

This Holdover Proceeding also presents itself where a Landlord purchases a home at auction from a foreclosing lender and there is a Tenant occupying the home and refuses to leave post-closing.

“One thing is for sure, as New York State does not afford the Landlord any right to “self help” meaning absent securing a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction from a court, the Landlord cannot change the locks, access the rental dwelling, or touch any of the Tenant’s belongings,” Nozzolillo explained. “Failing to comply can result in criminal liability against the Landlord.”

Rights and actions for Tenants

As far as the Tenant’s rights are concerned, that depends on whether there was a situation that occurred where the Landlord was remiss in obligations that would justify the Tenant’s non-payment of rent—if the Landlord breached any part of the “Warranty of Habitability” or if there are health/safety hazards that are left untreated after the Tenant places the Landlord on Actual Notice, for example.

In these situations, Tenants can refrain from paying rent to the Landlord and instead use that money to hire a professional to come and treat/cure the problem. The Tenant can also choose to prematurely terminate the lease and vacate the premises.

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This situation can also arise where there are multiple units being rented, like a two family home, and one of the Tenants is compromising the rights of the other (playing loud music at late night hours,etc.). Essentially where one Tenant's right to “quiet use and enjoyment” is compromised by the other, rental payments to the Landlord can be withheld by the burdened Tenant.

“I have seen a variety of scenario combinations,” Nozzolillo explained. “Each situation is different, and the fact pattern will determine the legal analysis, approach, and eventual legal remedy to be sought.”

“This Landlord/Tenant terrain has become volatile, and only a skilled and seasoned attorney should be relied on to navigate one through this territory,” he added. “Be sure to defer to the knowledge and experience of a seasoned attorney who can help guide you through the red tape, whether as a Landlord or Tenant, and assure that your legal rights are best protected—and that justice is served.”

Learn more about the services offered by attorney Anthony A. Nozzolillo, Esq. by visiting his website at nozzolillo.com, via email anthony@nozzolillo.com, or by calling (516) 581-4713.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice nor create an Attorney Client Relationship. Prior Results Do Not Guarantee a Similar Outcome.