Your Rights as a Renter

What Are My Rights as a Renter in Albany?
A Top 10 List
  • #1: Renters have the right to safe, livable, and sanitary homes.
  • #2: Renters have the right to make a housing complaint - without experiencing retaliation.
  • #3: Renters have the right to live free from discrimination in their housing.
  • #4: Renters cannot be required to give up their rights when they sign a lease.
  • #5: Renters may have the right to withhold rent in certain situations.
  • #6: Landlords must provide notice before raising your rent or changing your lease.
  • #7: Renters cannot be evicted without good cause, or without going to eviction court.
  • #8: Landlords must return tenants' security deposits within 14 days, and any deductions must be itemized and in writing.
  • #9: Landlords may not enter a tenant's home without proper notice.
  • #10: There are limits on the fees a landlord may charge if rent is late.

Signing a Lease

In some situations, a landlord may propose a lease that violates the tenant’s rights. Be on the lookout for statements like these:

  • “Landlord has the right to enter the unit at any time, for any reason.”
  • “This property is being rented ‘as-is.’”
  • “You are not allowed to bring any children into the unit.”
  • “If you are suspected of criminal activity, your lease will be terminated without notice.”
  • “All housing complaints should be made to the landlord. Reporting a complaint to any other source may result in penalties for you.”
  • “If rent is late, you will be charged $25 per day in late fees until it is paid.”

To learn more about signing a lease, click here

Withholding Rent

Renters may have a right to withhold rent if their landlord has failed to provide them with safe, livable, and sanitary housing. 

Paying in Escrow

You may be able to pay your rent into a separate bank account. This is called paying in escrow. To do this, call your bank and ask to set up an escrow account. You should then deposit your full monthly rent into that account. 

Be Aware! When the code violations have been fixed, you will be expected to turn that money over to your landlord.

How Can I Protect Myself from Eviction?

If your landlord tries to evict you for non-payment of rent, you will be able to show the Court that you have been paying your rent into escrow. 

If your landlord is not providing you with safe, livable, and sanitary housing, you may also be able to ask the Court to reduce your rent. This is called a rent abatement

It may be a good idea to contact an attorney in this situation. You can contact the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY at 833-628-0087 for free legal advice and representation.

Proper Notice to Tenants

Raising Rents or Lease Non-Renewal

Landlords must provide notice in writing if they will not renew a lease or if they will raise your rent. The amount of time your landlord has to give you to prepare for these changes depends on how long you have lived in your apartment:

  • If you have lived there for less than a year, a 30-day notice is required.
  • If you have lived there for 1-2 years, a 60-day notice is required.
  • If you have lived there for 2+ years, a 90-day notice is required.

Entering Your Unit

Landlords may not enter a tenant's unit without providing at least 24 hours' notice. Your landlord also can only expect to enter during “reasonable hours,” which generally means between 9am and 5pm, Monday – Friday. You may grant your landlord access to the unit outside of these hours or without notice – IF you choose to do so.

These rules do not apply in emergency situations (e.g. a gas leak, fire, or burst pipe).

Be Aware! Most leases require the tenant to grant access to the unit for certain legitimate purposes. These may include: 

  • Making repairs or performing maintenance
  • Showing the unit to a potential buyer or tenant
  • Allowing code inspectors to visit the unit

Failure to grant access in these situations (provided your landlord gave proper notice) could put you at risk for eviction.


"Good Causes" for Eviction

In Albany, tenants can only be evicted for certain reasons, known as "good causes." The following is a list of "good causes" for eviction:

  1. Failure to pay rent
  2. Violating lease terms
  3. Unreasonably refusing to allow the landlord access to the unit
  4. Illegal use of the unit
  5. Criminal activity
  6. Persistent nuisance activity
  7. For the landlord or their immediate family to move in
  8. Certain property sales
  9. The tenant provided notice that they intended to vacate at least 5 months ago but didn't leave, and the landlord has re-rented the unit

You may notice that expiration of the lease is not included in the list above, as it is NOT a good cause for eviction in Albany. This means that a tenant should not be evicted for an expired lease alone.

Illegal Evictions

No one can legally be evicted without going to court. Occasionally a landlord may try to evict someone illegally without going to court, which is a crime under New York State Law. These actions are some examples of illegal evictions:

  • Demanding a tenant leave through threats, harassment, or intimidation
  • Changing the locks on the apartment without a court warrant
  • Shutting off the utilities
  • Damaging the unit intentionally
  • Barricading doors or windows
  • Removing doors, locks, or doorknobs
  • Removing the tenant's belongings
  • Physically removing or otherwise assaulting a tenant

If you experience any of these things, call the Albany Police Department at 518-438-4000

Security Deposits

Landlords often require you to put down a security deposit when renting a unit. It is important to recognize that although you have given this money to your landlord, it legally still belongs to you.

When you move out, your landlord is automatically required to return your deposit to your last known address. 

Your landlord IS allowed to keep all or part of your security deposit to cover any expenses you may have caused them. If your landlord does keep any of your deposit, they must send you an itemized list of deductions (a list of items and how much they cost).

Normal Wear & Tear

Normal wear and tear that comes from living in a unit should not be considered property damage and should not be deducted from your deposit. Some examples of normal wear and tear include:

  • Small nail holes
  • Minor scuffs on walls or floors
  • Small stains on walls or carpets

If you feel your landlord has kept too much of your deposit, contact the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY at 833-628-0087.

Late Rent Fees

Your landlord can only charge you late rent fees after the rent is overdue by at least 5 days. Your landlord also cannot charge you any fees that are not explained in the lease you have both signed. 

Landlords are only allowed to charge late fees up to $50 OR 5% of your monthly rent (whichever is less). Use the table below to see how much you can be charged if you are late on rent: 

My monthly rent is...My landlord can charge me...
$1,000 or more$50