Rent Law Changes During COVID-19

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By Susan Bereche, Retreat Attorney

In addition to extending the moratorium on evictions (and foreclosure actions) to August 19, the following modifications of state law may benefit our clients:

The Real Property Law was modified to prohibit landlords, lessors, sublessors and grantors from imposing and collecting late fees and penalty charges for any late rent which was or will be due during the period between March 20 and August 20.

The General Obligations Law was modified to allow tenants to apply their security deposits to monthly rent; however, tenants must keep in mind the following: a) if the security deposit is less than the monthly rental amount, tenants are still obligated to pay the difference to the landlord; b) within 90 days of applying any security deposit to monthly rent, the tenant must repay the amount of deposit applied plus 8.33% of the monthly rental amount; c) while the tenant is not obligated to apply security if asked to do so by the landlord, the landlord must acquiesce to the tenants request; and d) the parties agreement to apply the security deposit to monthly rent must be in writing but an email evidencing same is sufficient to satisfy this requirement.

The provision allowing the application of the security deposit to rent is available only to those who are eligible for unemployment insurance, eligible for federal or state benefits or “otherwise facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” I would think that this covers basically everyone.

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