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How to Screen a Tenant in the State of New York
DISCLAIMER: We do our best to keep this information accurate and up-to-date, but we cannot guarantee either. The most recent law changes may not be reflected here. We do not intend this information to be legal advice, nor are we qualified to advise you regarding legal matters. We highly recommend consulting a lawyer qualified to discuss landlord-tenant law to advise you. We do not specifically endorse any of the websites linked from these pages, nor are we in any way affiliated with the agencies or individuals who have published them. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information posted on these sites. If you find a problem on this page, please contact us so that we can get it fixed.
Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, New York has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current New York landlord-tenant laws here. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
As the debate over rent regulations accelerates, developers and advocates will also be keeping an eye on other laws that expire either with the rent regulations or later in 2015. June 15 is also the sunset date for the 421-a tax break, a property tax abatement given to residential developers. Critics say 421-a is enormously expensive and ineffective at producing affordable housing. Meanwhile, the J-51 tax exemption, which gives owners who are renovating their properties a tax break if they enroll in rent stabilization, sunsets June 29, while the co-op and condo tax abatement, which allows owners of those properties a rebate on their property taxes, needs to be renewed by June 30. Reform and renewal of these programs could get linked to rent stabilization. The looming battle over New York State Housing Laws.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
Owner/Agent Identity - this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
Security Deposit - this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
Non-refundable Fees - explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
Security Deposit Disclosure: New York requires landlords to disclose details about the security deposit. Specifically, the statute requires that deposits not be comingled with landlords personal assets, but does not explicitly require placement in a banking institution, however, deposits collected in buildings of six or more units must be placed in New York bank accounts. (N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law 7-103 to 7-108)
Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records - A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in New York: NY Department Of Corrections, NY Department Of Corrections Release, NY Medicaid Inspector Exclusion List, NY Sex Offender Registry.
Eviction Records - records are available from the following counties: Albany, Allegany, Bronx, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Kings, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, St Lawrence, Steuben, Suffolk, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming, Yates.
Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments - records are available from the following counties: Albany, Allegany, Bronx, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Kings, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Suffolk, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming, Yates.
Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.