In this second part of our series, we continue our analysis of COVID-19’s impact on some common issues affecting New York City tenants. (Part 1 can be found here.)
- What if my apartment needs urgent repairs?
The current public-health crisis is no excuse for landlords to skirt their legal responsibility to maintain safe and habitable housing. If you are experiencing issues with heat, electricity, hot water, and the like, you should notify the owner or managing agent, straight away. Landlords have a statutory duty to provide essential services, and if they fail to do so, for any reason—including due to a tenant’s non-payment of rent—that may be a basis for a rent reduction or abatement (in addition to other relief).
If you are not getting a satisfactory response to your concerns, New York City residents should immediately call 311, or visit https://portal.311.nyc.gov/, to file a formal complaint.
- Can I use my security deposit to pay the rent?
Prior to COVID-19 impacting our area, it was not an option to apply one's security deposit to unpaid rent (unless, of course, a landlord agreed to that arrangement).
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order (202.28) provides some relief to renters in that regard. Among other things, the Governor announced that landlords are required to apply security deposits to the rent, and that tenants will have the option to either replenish that portion of the security deposit (within ninety (90) days), or sign a low-cost monthly insurance plan for the remainder of the lease, to cover any costs of damage to their unit.
- What if I tested positive for COVID-19?
Landlords cannot harass or discriminate against any occupant in their buildings who has contracted COVID-19, or, is thought to have had exposure. But, in the interest of furthering public health and safety, landlords are currently permitted to inform other tenants that an occupant has contracted the virus. Such notice may NOT contain any identifying information, the disclosure of which may subject ownership and management to liability.
- Can a landlord impose "move-in, move-out" conditions?
If your relocation can not be delayed, or is otherwise unavoidable, it is critically important that you inquire about any restrictions or guidance that the building may have in place, regarding move-ins, and move-outs.
While some conditions have become "standard" -- like mandating that your movers be licensed and insured (and that proof of such licensing and insurance be supplied, in advance) -- many owners, including some tony cooperative buildings, (if they have not banned all move-ins, and move-outs), are imposing onerous requirements, and are assessing substantial "sanitization" fees and cleaning charges. Since the “legality” of those demands have yet to be determined, readers are best advised to be “reasonable.” (For example, offer to split (or to pay a portion of) any sanitization or other related charges, to avoid an excessive delay and a costly legal battle.)
When you finally do schedule your move, also ensure that you, and any company your hire, comply with all federal, state and local directives.
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Part 3 of the series will address more topics, including, “rent gouging” and a landlord’s duty to minimize the risk of the virus spreading, building wide.
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DISCLAIMER: As COVID-19 related developments change daily, this must be viewed as an exceptionally fluid situation. Accordingly, prior to taking any action, we strongly urge you to contact our office to ascertain whether there has been any change that would impact any recommendations made, or whether there are discrete facts or developments unique to your situation which would warrant undertaking a different tact or course.