Top 5 Questions And Answers About Landlord-Tenant Issues Presented During Court Buddy's May Meet-Up
Carlee Sutera Student, Rutgers Law School
Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Court Buddy began hosting monthly virtual Legal Meet-Ups to help people get advice from real lawyers on pressing legal topics. The Meet-Ups are run in a panel format, mediated by Court Buddy’s Chief Legal Officer Jennifer McGlone who asks the panelists questions submitted by you, our Court Buddy users.
The first legal meet-up was held on May 8th and reached over 200 people around the United States. Seven esteemed Court Buddy lawyers participated as panelists.
Bradley Bailyn, Eafon Cobb, Lou Russo, Patricia De Fonte, Neil Opdahl-Lopez, Michael Neumann, and Bowen Klosinski discussed topics ranging from landlord-tenant issues to unemployment.
Michael Neumann was our panelist focusing on landlord-tenant issues. His practice is in the greater New York City area with a focus in residential landlord-tenant law, estate administration, real estate closing, and sales and purchasing agreements. He is an experienced litigator who places emphasis on resolving disputes through alternative resolution.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the country is facing record unemployment and loss of income, much of the Meet-Up focused on landlord-tenant issues, such as eviction and rent relief. Court Buddy received more questions on residential landlord-tenant issues than any other topic. Here are Mr. Neumann’s answers to your landlord-tenant issues and here are the top five questions and answers about handling landlord-tenant issues presented during Court Buddy’s May meet-up:
1. Can my landlord evict me if I fall behind on my rent during COVID-19? Can he charge me late fees? Can he lock me out?
The answer always depends on your lease and if late fees are contained in your lease. Right now New York City has banned late fees and put a moratorium on evictions. So it depends on the jurisdiction.
Your landlord cannot lock you out. If you do come home and your landlord has locked you out, first call 3-1-1 and tell them the situation.
As soon as possible, call the court and tell them the situation and ask them what you should do. Generally, there would be an emergency style motion where you can get on the calendar quicker.
2. Do I pay my rent, and if I cannot, what are my options?
If you can't pay your rent because you don't have enough money, don't pay your rent. But, you owe your landlord the money because you're under contract. Try to call your landlord and explain your situation, tell them where your finances are at, why you lost your job when you expect to be hired back, etc. See if you can work out a deal with your landlord directly before pursuing other options.
3. How much time does my landlord have to present me with a written notice before raising my rent? If I receive a rent increase during this time, can I contest it?
This depends on if your apartment is market rate, stabilized, or any other type of protection like New York has. If it is then your landlord can only raise it a certain amount and has to give you notice within a certain amount of time, typically three to six months. Once you get that notice, if you don't sign and you decide to hold over and stay you're going to owe whatever the notice was. If it's a market-rate apartment it's whatever you can negotiate with your landlord. If you feel your landlord did not give you enough notice, you can continue paying the old amount and stay in the apartment but, down the road they may take you to court for the difference. This really depends on what kind of apartment you have and what city or state you are in.
4. I am renting a room in my house to a person who left for COVID 19 treatment 7 days ago. I am 60 years old and don't want to die from exposure to this person; can I ban them from my house?
This depends on the jurisdiction and if you have a lease. If you have been accepting money from them, they're in possession then they have rights as a tenant whether they have a lease or not. In New York State, if you lock the tenant out, the person can go to court. The courts are open for that. It's an unfortunate situation to be in and that's why everyone's having to quarantine and self-isolate. I would do your best to stay away from common areas or I would speak to the tenant and designate some areas and maybe it would behoove you to hire someone to come in and clean the place every so often.
5. I gave notice to my landlord in Brooklyn before April 1st that I could no longer afford to keep the apartment and they put the apartment on the market. Is it safe, legally, to stop paying rent for May and beyond? Am I automatically released from my lease once the landlord signs a new lease?
Yes, once somebody signs a new lease they've mitigated their damages and you don't owe the money. However, if your lease has some type of breakage clause, the court will enforce that. Let's say the landlord says I know you were supposed to be there through June but if you vacate in April I'll post the apartment April 11th as long as you're out by that time. Know that the landlord finding a suitable tenant is the precursor to you being relieved of your obligation. They have to put a good-faith effort into finding someone, but may not find someone right away.
The next Court Buddy Legal Meet-Up will be held via zoom on June 26th. You can sign up to ask a question on our website or by calling us at 866-653-3017.
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