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Landlords Must Make Certain Legally Required Disclosures

April 27, 2017 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

When a property is rented to a tenant, the landlord (or an agent thereof) is required to disclose certain details of the property and of the lease itself so that the tenant is fully informed as to dangers or habitability issues prior to taking on the lease.  Though New York statutory law is fairly limited with regard to the specific disclosure requirements it imposes on landlords in the state, fundamental aspects of contract law (i.e., avoidance of fraud) and real estate law (i.e., the warranty of habitability) may give rise to broader disclosure requirements.

Municipal and county-level rules may differ, however.  Depending on your location, you may be required to make additional disclosures to tenants.  To ensure that you have made all disclosures necessary under the law of your jurisdiction, consult with a qualified New York landlord attorney.

When engaging with a new or potential tenant, consider the following disclosure issues.

Existence of Bedbugs

In 2010, New York implemented new rules requiring landlords to disclose a property’s bedbug infestation history (limited to the previous calendar year) to new and potential tenants.  Ostensibly, tenants who are warned of bedbug infestation can take affirmative measures to protect themselves.

Lead Paint Hazards

The residential use of lead-based paints was banned in municipalities across the country many decades ago, and disclosure laws reflect the need to put tenants on notice as to the dangers thereof.  Federal law requires that landlords disclose the use of lead-based paint in the leased or rented property.  New York courts have also found that landlords have an affirmative duty to inspect for lead paint.

Security Deposit Information

New York landlords are required to disclose information relating to the security deposit.  For example, if you place your tenant’s security deposit in an interest-bearing account at a New York banking institution, you will have to disclose all relevant account information to the tenant.

Warranty of Habitability Concerns

Every residential lease agreement in New York is governed by the warranty of habitability (as expounded by New York State Real Property Law section 235(b)), which requires that a landlord warrant that the leased property is free of dangerous, hazardous, and otherwise detrimental conditions of health and safety, and fit for the intended use of the tenant — further, this warranty cannot be modified or removed in the lease agreement.  Though the warranty of habitability does not impose affirmative disclosure duties on the landlord, a failure to disclose such issues can lead to a lawsuit down the road.

For example, suppose that you are renting a property where the tenant has made it clear that they will need consistent central heating.  You rent out the property to the tenant without disclosing that there are issues with the gas line that make heating extremely inconsistent, and frequently unavailable.  Depending on how severe the lack of heating is, the tenant could make an argument that you have breached the warranty of habitability and could withhold rent or bring a lawsuit against you.  Further, the tenant may be able to sue you for fraud if they can concoct an argument that you knew about the condition but failed to disclose it so as to induce the tenant to enter into the lease agreement.

By disclosing any dangerous conditions beforehand, you not only ensure that the you and the tenant can compromise early on as to how and when to repair such conditions, but you also shield yourself from liability for fraud.

New York landlords are required to make a range of disclosures to their tenants.  If you are a landlord facing a dispute relating to a disclosure issue, you should consult as soon as possible with an attorney who has experience handling New York landlord tenant law.  Let the skilled attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. assist you.

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