Withholding from Your Tenant’s Security Deposit in NY

What damages can I lawfully deduct from a tenant’s security deposit in New York?

As a landlord, you will likely deal with damage to your property when a tenant departs.  New York law requires that you meet certain deadlines and follow set procedures in order for you to deduct a portion of your tenant’s security deposit to cover damages.  Failure to abide by the laws can result in the loss of your right to deduct from security.  Our Long Island residential real estate attorneys at Roman & Piccinnini PLLC outline how you can make a deduction from the security deposit and what damages may be deducted.

Security Deposit Basics

You have the right as a landlord to ask that your new tenant pay a security deposit.  Typically, the amount is equal to one month’s rent, though you are in control of setting this figure.  You should place the security deposit in a bank and must notify the tenant in writing of the address of the bank where it is being held along with the amount.  If you own a building with six or more units that are nonregulated, the tenant is entitled to keep the interest earned on the deposit as well. If your rental is under rent control, you should check the local ordinances as you may be subject to differing rules.

Damage Beyond Wear and Tear

New York landlords are permitted to deduct from a tenant’s security deposit for reimbursement of repair costs that go beyond normal wear and tear, as well as for any unpaid rent.  It is critical that you distinguish from what should be considered ordinary wear and tear and what surpasses that.  Items that are typically deemed ordinary wear and tear, and thus not deductible, include:

  • Worn carpets or tile flooring
  • Faded paint
  • Loose door handles
  • Dust
  • Fading silver finish on bathroom fixtures

Once you have identified the damage as deductible, you must return the deposit, minus the allowable deduction, within a reasonable time after the termination of the lease. Reasonable varies, but generally involves about 30-60 days.  You should include with the portion of the deposit that is returned a list of itemized deductions for repairs, cleaning, and back owed rent.  Attach copies of any receipts or include a cost estimate.  Consider doing a walk through with the tenant so they are not surprised by losing a portion of the deposit.  Contact an attorney if your tenant disputes the amount deducted.

Posted in: Real Estate Litigation