Essential Tenant Screening Laws in New York for Landlords and Renters to Know About

New York landlords and tenants should understand the state's tenant screening laws to support a fair and compliant rental process. We cover the key aspects of these laws, including rental application requirements, tenant rights, and specific rules for background checks.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
March 27, 2024
Essential Tenant Screening Laws in New York for Landlords and Renters to Know About

If you have a rental property in New York or you're looking for a place to live, being aware of the tenant screening laws can help you promote a fair and compliant rental process.

To observe fair housing regulations, New York law provides guidelines that landlords must follow when screening potential tenants. This includes understanding what information can be requested on rental applications, how to properly obtain consent for background checks, and how to handle situations where you need to deny an application.

Tenants also have rights during the screening process, including protection from discrimination and the right to receive clear communication about the landlord's criteria and decision-making process.

In this article, we'll provide an overview of New York tenant screening laws, covering key aspects such as rental application requirements, and tenant screening rights, as well as specific rules for credit checks, criminal background checks, and eviction history. So, let's get into it!

New York tenant screening laws

Landlords use tenant screening to find reliable, qualified renters. New York has specific tenant screening guidelines that go beyond the typical credit, criminal, and eviction checks. These guidelines help prevent discrimination and provide a fair rental process for every applicant. For example, landlords can't use factors like source of income and housing status to disqualify potential tenants.

The ability to follow New York rental application laws requires awareness of the latest legislation and best practices. An objective, consistent screening policy that treats each prospective tenant equally can help landlords to avoid any potential fair housing violations.

What can New York rental applications ask?

New York rental applications are a landlord's first step to collecting information on potential tenants. The details may vary by landlord, but applications typically include:

  1. Personal information: Full legal name, contact information, date of birth, and current address. This helps the landlord identify the applicant and conduct necessary checks.
  2. Rental history: Details about previous rentals, including addresses, dates of tenancy, and contact information for former landlords. Landlords use this information to verify rental history and assess a tenant's reliability.
  3. Employment and income information: Current and past employers, job titles, contact details, income information, and sometimes a few recent pay stubs or a tax return. Landlords use this to verify employment and that the applicant has a stable source of income to pay rent.
  4. Credit information consent: New York rental applications require consent for a credit check, as landlords need written permission to review an applicant's credit history.
  5. Criminal history inquiry: New York City's Fair Chance for Housing Act requires landlords to wait until after making a conditional offer of housing to ask about an applicant's criminal history.
  6. References: Names and contact information for personal or professional references. References can provide insight into the character and reliability of the applicant.
  7. Proof of identity: A request to provide a copy of a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, to confirm the applicant's identity.
  8. Signature and date: This section asks the applicant to sign and date the application, confirming their information is true and that they understand the terms and conditions.

New York tenant screening rules

New York law provides specific protections for the screening process. Here are the key rules and rights every landlord and applicant should be aware of:

Application forms and fees

In New York, landlords can charge an application fee up to the actual cost of the background and credit checks, or $20, whichever is less. This regulation prevents unreasonably high application fees and verifies that charges reflect actual screening costs.

Privacy and consent

Landlords must obtain written consent from applicants before conducting any credit or background checks. This confirms that the screening process is transparent and respects the applicant's privacy.

Criminal background checks

New York City's Fair Chance for Housing Act prohibits landlords from asking about criminal history until after a conditional offer of housing is made. This law seeks to eliminate discrimination against a prospective tenant with a criminal record, providing them a fair opportunity to find housing.

Eviction history

A landlord may consider eviction history when they screen tenants, but New York encourages a contextual review of such records. Not all evictions, especially those related to extenuating circumstances like financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, should automatically disqualify an applicant.

Non-discrimination

The federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status, applies to rental applications in New York. The state also has additional protections against discrimination based on source of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and military status.

Disclosure of screening criteria

Landlords are encouraged to disclose their screening criteria upfront. This includes any requirements or benchmarks that applicants must meet, such as credit scores, income ratios, or rental history standards.

Adverse action notices

If a landlord decides not to rent to an applicant based on a screening report, New York law, following the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), requires them to provide an adverse action notice. This notice must detail the reason for the denial and provide information on how the applicant can access and review the report that influenced the decision.

Next steps after an application is approved

The typical next steps in the rental process after approving an application include:

  • Security deposit: Landlords usually require a security deposit equivalent to one month's rent. The landlord holds this upfront cost as protection against potential damages or unpaid rent.
  • First month’s rent: Tenants often need to pay the first month's rent when they sign the lease agreement.
  • Signing the lease agreement: The lease agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. It should include details such as the duration of the lease, the monthly rent amount, and conditions for renewal or termination.

NY rental application basics

Gaining a solid understanding of New York's tenant screening laws contributes to a fair and transparent experience for all parties involved. Landlords should establish a consistent, objective, and compliant method for evaluating prospective tenants to verify reliability and safeguard their interests. Tenants should be aware of their rights to ensure equitable treatment throughout the application phase.

Following these laws supports strong, stable, and mutually beneficial rental relationships. Learning about New York's tenant screening laws leads to better interactions and outcomes for all parties involved.

Tenant screening laws in New York FAQs

Can a landlord do credit checks in NY?

Yes, landlords in New York can conduct credit checks on potential tenants with the tenant's consent.

What are considered red flags when screening a tenant?

Red flags in tenant screening include poor credit history, previous evictions, inconsistent employment history, criminal record, negative references from past landlords, and providing false information on an application.

What is the new rent law in New York?

New York's new rent law, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December 2023, boosts protections for tenants in rent-stabilized apartments. It aims to prevent unfair rent hikes and the deregulation of apartments. Now, landlords need to get approval from the Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to deregulate an apartment. They also face fines for failing to register apartments. The law also clarifies how rents should be calculated after changes and gives HCR more authority to enforce these rules.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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